Konrad Wiszniewski and Euan Stevenson’s album New Focus is officially released today, although I know quite a few people – myself included – bought copies at last month’s performances in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

2012, in my opinion, has been a very good year for jazz recordings, and New Focus is up there with the best of them (not just the best from the UK, the best internationally). I’ve always been a bit sceptical of jazz with strings recordings, but this works really well, possibly because it’s using a string quartet – always a bit more astringent sounding than a string orchestra – plus occasional harpist, rather than a full string section.

The title suggests a link with Stan Getz’s album Focus, but whereas that was a recording for tenor sax and strings, this is much more a performance by jazz quartet and string quartet. While Wiszniewski’s the star soloist (“firmly in the international class“, according to Rob Adams), pianist Stevenson (who did the arrangements) also has some fine solos, and bass player Michael Janisch and drummer Alyn Cosker also make important contributions. It’s a splendidly melodic album, which manages to be highly accessible and often rather romantic without ever being bland or slushy.

If you want to buy a copy, it’s available from the Whirlwind Recordings website either as a physical CD or to download. My one slight gripe about Whirlwind is that despite being based in the UK, their site initially quotes the price in US dollars. The CD costs $12.99, which is about £8 in real money. The download is slightly cheaper.

Anyway, that’s enough gushing from me. Here’s what the guys themselves say about the album:

And here’s a clip of them in action (the track’s a compostion of Euan Stevenson’s called “El Paraiso”)

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