Review: The Guardian

By John Fordham

Pianist Dan Nicholls was a student on the course Django Bates directed until 2011 at Copenhagen's Rhythmic Music Conservatory. Now he has returned to the UK, to extend ideas he originally spawned in Copenhagen with this accomplished local band, including pianist Kit Downes (here on organ) and saxophonist and clarinetist James Allsopp, with Shabaka Hutchings and Tom Challenger on other reeds. Ruins feels like an album that needs to be lived with over time and changing moods – and even then, a patina of the formal and structurally meticulous clings to it. But Nicholls imaginatively mingles the tightly patterned, cyclical-melody approach of much contemporary jazz with the spontaneous ideas of his high-class partners. And the session also has plenty of funky punch. The winding, minimalist Blinkers, with its gripping treble-note resolutions, becomes the kind of piece you start hearing in your sleep. And the interplay of heavy jazz horn-blasting and guitar-mimicking keys on Chaos, the robotic bleeps on the title track, the twitchy Withdrawal (with its superb Fender Rhodes break) and the spooky closer I Don't Know all confirm this newcomer as a euro-jazz gamechanger in the making.