Outstanding, lyrical accounts of the veteran Danish-Afro-American saxophonist, who cut his teeth at the side of big boys (the biggest) like Coltrane, Ayler, Cherry and Bennink in the mid-60s before striking out on his own idiosyncratic and quietly illustrious path. A chance festival encounter with Treader chiefs John Coxon and Ashley Wales in the early noughts led to this intriguing date, and, we can now pretty confidently say - with our EXPERT knowledge of the contemporary scene, arf - surely one of the most powerful and refined and unannoying jazz records released this century. The sparrow (or whatever it is, as if I know what it is) that appeared on the cover of the original 2005 CD issue couldn’t be more bluntly, and accurately, symbolic: sonically this album aspires to, and at its best achieves, bird-like flight, Tchichai’s reeds sometimes an ecstatic flutter of small, rapid, but precise movements (somewhere between Dolphy and maybe Harold McNair on Kes?! Or is this all getting a bit BIRDMANIAX?), sometimes opening up into sonorous, weeping, melodic lines that sail the whole thing into the realm of the unabashedly spiritual. Wales and Coxon - formerly IDM-n-bass duo Springheel Jack, of course, but subsequently bastions of outward-looking London improv and, in Wales’ case, Spiritualized sideman during the band’s imperial phase - bring proper insight and sensitivity to their accompaniments, eschewing obvious electronic treatments in favour of harpsichord, guitar, trumpet, steel bowls, with additional percussions from Mark Sanders. Rest assured, it doesn’t sound like it came from the Arve Henriksen Euthanasia Clinic or anything like that. No, it’s an emotive yet properly understated record, subverting expectation at every turn, from the sleepy-eyed strings-n-vibes fantasia of the opener - weirdly reminiscent of a Randy Newman arrangement, or some lost Pet Sounds chart, cut with a peculiarly Northern European melancholy - on in. I would go as far as to say that the tremulous, poised, patient, but ultimately rapturous ‘Formalism’ is everything I wanted from jazz but was afraid to ask, or more accurately everything I thought I would get from ECM but never did. Highest possible recommendation!