"The Journey Home" has the relaxed virtuosity of a group of musicians who are really enjoying their job. It’s immediately engaging with the classic five piece line-up aided by the album’s beautifully recorded open sound and live dynamic.
Most of the album is quite up-tempo but I had ordered it after hearing just the second track, "Lament for Miles", on the radio. There’s the same frisson you remember from hearing "Flamenco Sketches" for the first time - you just stop what you’re doing to listen. Steele's phrasing and line-up may sometimes echo that sound from "Kind of Blue" but he also gives his compositions their own Celtic twist. So, while there is a warm acknowledgement of that influence, Steele's own sound remains distinct, contemporary and immensely satisfying.
There's nothing edgy or experimental here but "The Journey Home" will be an album you come back to again and again simply for the pleasure of listening.
This is a captivating and innovative recording that moves away from the American jazz idiom. 'The Journey Home', while still belonging in the jazz genre, has its true identity in the music of Scotland (everything that it should be, rather than the usual 'celtic' tat). It is an exceptional CD, and promises great things for the future of jazz.