THE GUARDIAN ****
The Scottish trumpeter and composer Colin Steele has been both an exponent of warmly songlike jazz playing and vivacious jazz-inflected Celtic original themes over the years, but embouchure trouble was about to end his playing career until classical trumpeter Mark O’Keefe’s inspired advice saved it in 2015. Even in the Darkest Places is the result, seven new Steele themes played by a superb quintet including saxophonist Michael Buckley, with the composer’s folk-jazz alter ego Dave Milligan on piano. The three-part Down to the Wire catches Steele’s composing essence in its sequence of plaintive soprano sax entreaties, echoed by Milligan, a warmly jigging horn dance with a soft, enveloping melody, and then a hurtling, bass-walking Scottish bop-blues. The timely Independence Song neatly meshes a Celtic melody and a South African chime to Milligan’s piano sound, and the mellow theme of There Are Angels hauntingly conveys Steele’s thanks to the people who helped him back to the bandstand. It’s an invitingly lyrical jazz set with a very heartening backstory.
THE SCOTSMAN ****
Edinburgh trumpeter Colin Steele’s first quintet recording for more than a decade reunites him with pianist and arranger Dave Milligan, saxophonist Michael Buckley, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer Stu Ritchie in a triumphant and very welcome transcendence over the crisis which curtailed his playing for a period. There’s a sense of jubilation, therefore, in ringing piano and unison fanfaring of trumpet and sax in the opening I Will Wait for You, while tracks such as Robin Song further demonstrate Steele’s penchant for an engaging, folksong-like melody and that mellow yet limber dual horn sound. In Looking for Nessie, the monster hunt becomes a swinging safari, while Independence Song is an upbeat waltz. Buckley’s soprano sax sings out in his introduction to the three-part Down to the Wire, which settles into another elegantly Scots-accented sounding theme before the band lets rip with unbound energy.
"Even in the Darkest Places" sees Steele attach his folk-song instincts to a cool contemporary Euro-jazz sound. It features some beautiful playing from all concerned including the yearning, melody-driven sax of Michael Buckley and the similarly elegant Dave Milligan on piano, a man entirely on the same wavelength as his band leader. The rebirth of Steele as trumpeter has given him a darker and more reflective tone than before while his airily bright, tuneful compositions are at a high level. It makes for a spirited comeback" Selwyn Harris
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
"This new album is worth the wait. The line-up is less overtly celtic than predecessor Stramash — without fiddles and pipes — with a focus now on the core jazz quintet.
That said, the harmonies are still laced with his trademark celtic lilt, fused with his own gentle tone. 'Looking for Nessie' presents a breezy Loch-side jaunt, spurred on by inventive shifts of bass rhythm from quintet newcomer Gourlay, while 'Independence Song' is a swinging highlight, with its catchy, soulful piano introduction fr"l Steele's long-time collaborator Milligan. Elsewhere, saxist Buckley interjects bebop-style solos. Harking back to the small-band formula of
2005's through the Waves, this disc is a welcome return to form." Neil McKim
"Colin Steele is now back with a vengeance as this superb new set ably demonstrates. As if no time has passed since the equally fine Through The Waves for ACT back in 2005, the quintet reconvene and immediately reestablish the group sound and rapport that distinguished their previous recordings. It is fortunate that the all members from Waves were once again available when the trumpeter called, and it is great to have Dave Milligan once again working his magic with Steele's compositions and arranging the music for the quintet in what is now a readily identifiable ensemble sound. This partnership between trumpeter and pianist is pure gold, and between Colin's delightful melodies and Milligan's ability to grasp the essence of each tune and arrange them for the quintet in a manner that brings out the best that all the participants have to offer.
The resulting music is full of melodies that remain with the listener long after the last notes of the piece fade. All have an air of familiarity that is comforting and this again is down to the trumpeter's innate sense of continuity in his writing that transcends the time that has elapsed between albums. The melodies are often simply crafted, nothing over crowded or convoluted, but instrumental 'songs' that easily convey their message without the need for words. Never one to over elaborate it is therefore somewhat of a paradox that the compositions that perhaps elicit the most interest are the two longest pieces ' Suite For Theo' and 'Down To The Wire' that run in at over ten minutes each, with both composer and arranger being able to develop the thematic material into long form compositions that are totally compelling.
Lest we should forget that this is a jazz album, there are superb solos from all concerned, powered along by a superlative rhythm section, but it as an overall ensemble experience that Steele's story is best told in these wonderful tunes. Let us hope that another decade does not pass before the next album from the Colin Steele Quintet, and in the meantime enjoy this latest offering." Nick Lea
“The Scottish trumpeter can unfurl the Chet Baker arabesques when he is in the mood, but it is as an exponent of a delicate jazz-folk fusion that he truly comes into his own. “Stramash” may be a north-of-the-border term for “racket”, but Steele manages to draw a stunningly lyrical ensemble sound from what is, on paper at least, an unwieldy line-up featuring fiddles, cello, saxophone and pipes. The presence of that incisive pianist Dave Milligan is always an encouraging sign, and Steele has come up with an earthy series of compositions, rich in evocative motifs and intoxicating ceilidh rhythms. The Bletherer takes pride of place. One of the best home-grown releases this year.”
“The ten tracks on "Through The Waves" give the European jazz scene a colour which has been missing for so long - and at the same time rings as true as ever.”
“The trumpeter has a masterful understanding of how to transfer the folklore of his homeland to the jazz idiom. It proves how richly different folk traditions can influence European jazz.”
“The Scottish trumpeter Colin Steele is one of the most noted newcomers on the European jazz scene in recent years. With his quintet he creates a flow of fantasy, a music where the strong melodic lines direct the thought...exhilarating.”
Svenska Dagbladet Sweden
“His music is effortlessly effective, fetching, and accessible. Its lyricism and warmth will easily gain both the expert and the occasional listener. He bridges Scottish folk tradition and American jazz history, putting across material full of freshness, beauty, and stylistic variety with melodic grace, structural rigour, maturity in composition, focus in interpretation, and confidence.”
HiTech Magazine Greece
“Steele's Celtic heritage drives his love of melody, moving seamlessly between traditional jigs and the New York night.
El Pais Spain
”This superb quintet is a bop unit quite unlike any other. Steele's lithe, dancing folk-like themes give a definite Scottish flavour, and the soloists respond beautifully.”
The Irish Times
‘Trumpeter Colin Steele’s quintet is a dream of a band: a kind of Scottish supergroup whose individual stars remain at the service of compelling tunes, sophisticated arrangements and a swinging and sensitive ensemble feel.”
Independent On Sunday
“A repertoire singing with Celtic melody, lovingly threaded into the American jazz tradition…no pause so far in Steele’s mission to give the straight a head jazz tradition completely fresh options.”
“Steele’s tunes are a superb lot…a mix of poignancy and optimism which I found profoundly soulful…miss at your own risk.”
“This is effusive, vital, lovely jazz.”
“Steele is as much a composer as a trumpet player, and his mastery of both roles gives his music a rare completeness and individuality.”
“Trumpeter Colin Steele has compiled a superlative disc for a quintet of musicians who are both virtuosi and mature artists. Steele himself is a magnificent player and composed all 11 beautifully crafted pieces.”
BBC Music Magazine
“The best British jazz record of the year...rarely has the vocabulary of post bop gone native so convincingly.”
The New Statesman
“Beautiful life-affirming music.”
“May be the best amalgam of bop and folk yet.”
“Beautifully conceived and executed, mellow and melodic, Steele’s music has instant appeal.”