Manchester based trumpeter, composer, record label boss, arranger and band-leader Matthew Halsall is one of UK music’s brightest talents. A gifted trumpeter with a beautiful, expressive tone, his heart-warming music draws on his love of the transcendental spiritual and modal jazz of Alice and John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, as well as more contemporary dance music and electronica.
His unique sound has won him fans from Gilles Peterson to MOJO Magazine, with the Independent On Sunday describing his music as “Rain-streaked spiritual jazz from Manchester” and Time Out Magazine hailing his “hypnotic grooves and life-affirming glow”. His record label Gondwana Records is one of the UK’s hippest independents and has released albums by Nat Birchall, Matthew Halsall and GoGo Penguin. 2014 releases include new albums from GoGo Penguin, The Gondwana Orchestra and exciting new discovery Mammal Hands.
Matthew Halsall’s Spotify Playlist
Flamenco Sketches — Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue (1959)
I’ve been listening to this track for many, many years. It’s super chilled and the musicians play so beautifully. As a trumpeter/composer I’ve memorized every single note on both this tune and the rest of the album it’s taken from and it’s a total masterpiece from start to finish.
In A Sentimental Mood — Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (1963)
Every time I hear Duke Ellington’s piano intro on this tune it puts a massive smile on my face, it’s such a sweet natured tune and John Coltrane’s tenor sax playing is so gentle and relaxed. It’s also been sampled by some of my favourite hip-hop producers and I often play Mood Swing by Asheru feat. Talib Kweli or Free Your Turntable and Your Scratch Will Follow by DJ Cam.
Lazy Afternoon — Pete La Roca, Basra (1965)
Another super chilled modal jazz classic that I will never tire of is Lazy Afternoon by Pete La Roca. It’s so lazy and dreamy, and again has been sampled by DJ Cam on the track Angel Dust, which is also a regular tune DJ mixes.
Ode To The Big Sea — The Cinematic Orchestra, Motion (1999)
I first heard this track on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide show on BBC Radio 1 and it totally blew my mind. At the time I was in a number of jazz big bands and we frequently performed the music of Buddy Rich, and I loved the way J. Swinscoe sampled the track Willowcrest by Buddy Rich and then made it into something that sounds super fresh with the addition of percussion and horns. This concept totally changed the way I compose and think about jazz.
You’ve Got To Have Freedom — Pharaoh Sanders, Journey To The One (1980)
I owe many thanks to Mr. Scruff for introducing me to the world of Pharaoh Sanders. The minute I heard him play You’ve Got To Have Freedom I instantly fell in love with the track, and the when I got home I started listening to everything I could find by Pharaoh and that led me to the beautiful music of Alice Coltrane.
Journey In Satchidananda — Alice Coltrane, Journey In Satchidananda (1971)
Following on from my research into the world of Pharoah Sanders I discovered the mind blowing album Journey In Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane. I’d been a massive fan of John Coltrane for many years through his work with Miles Davis, but had no idea his wife had released music. This discovery couldn’t have come at a better time in my life as I was studying transcendental meditation and lots of Buddhist and eastern philosophy and I discovered the whole world of spiritual jazz at the same time. The instrumentation on this record inspired me to use harp in my compositions as well as lots of eastern percussion and the odd tanpura drone.
Like It Is — Yusef Lateef, The Blue Yusef Lateef (1968)
In a recent interview someone asked me to select a tune that is so beautiful that it’s difficult to listen due to the rich emotion of the track. I thought about it for a minute or two and then chose this track by Yusef Lateef. It is truly beautiful and really touches my soul every time I listen to it. Riverman by Nick Drake has a similar effect, the strings on both tracks really pull my heart strings.
Air Mail — Don Cherry & Latif Khan, Music / Sangam (1982)
Another one of my favourite trumpet players is Don Cherry. His music and playing really connects with me. I love the space and freedom in a lot of his music, it’s very dreamy and floaty and also sounds super hip and fresh and I love the eastern instrumentation he uses.
Beyond the Sun — McCoy Tyner, Fly With The Wind (1976)
Another heartfelt tune, this time by the mighty pianist McCoy Tyner who I first discovered as a sideman with John Coltrane’s amazing quartet. This tune has been sampled by Yesterdays New Quintet on the track Sunrays (produced by Madlib) and both versions are regulars in my DJ sets / radio shows.
White Nile — Kelan Phil Cohran And Legacy, African Skies ( 2010)
What’s not to love about a track with two harps, beautiful vocals and one of the longest trumpet notes I’ve ever heard on a record. And if that wasn’t enough the album was recorded at Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. I love everything about this track and play it on a regular basis at the beginning of my radio shows and DJ sets.