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REVIEWS

"Sam Leak is one of the brightest young stars in the jazz piano galaxy, a heavenly improviser and a brilliant prospect for the future." 

Helen Mayhew, JazzFM

"Multi-faceted and smart as a pin, this is poetic chamber jazz of a very high order" 

Chris Ingham, MOJO Magazine (4 star review)

"The Royal Academy of Music's jazz programme has produced a remarkable crop of newcomers in recent times: notably the Mercury-nominated pianists Gwilym Simcock and Kit Downes. Now comes Sam Leak, an artist of comparable promise...Leak is a subtle storyteller who keeps the grooves and colours changing." 

John Fordham, The Guardian


"A band full of the great heavyweights we have on the young British Jazz scene... it's got that beautiful mixture of extraordinary playing, a kind of chamber jazz feel but with great grooves and extraordinary improvising as well, I'm a fan of this band...I've been listening to it a lot actually, I'm a really really big fan of this record" 

Jamie Cullum, BBC Radio 2

"This is assured and sophisticated acoustic jazz with deep roots in the tradition, that knows exactly what it's trying to do - and succeeds" 

Daniel Spicer, BBC Music Magazine

"surefooted creativity... the agile, early-Jarrett-inflected Scribbles and Scrawls, the darkly moving February with its Godfather theme echoes, the free-jazzy Clutter and the postboppish Catherine Grove – with Leak in full Keith Jarrett ecstatic-muttering mode on a superb solo – go way beyond respectful expertise" 

John Fordham, The Guardian

"The 26-year-old pianist-composer Sam Leak is the man behind Aquarium, a quartet that a lot of critics picked up on following an impressive self-titled debut release two years ago on the Babel Label...Aquarium is made up of ex-Royal Academy graduates, all having noticeably matured of late into more self-possessed, discerning jazz players without sacrificing any of their youthful energy...Sam Leak was a name to watch at the beginning of last year and on the evidence of 'Places' he's certainly living up to his early promise" 

Selwyn Harris, Jazzwise Magazine


"Leak's well-worked, linear compositions are shaded with English eccentricity. Bucolic reveries toughen into grimy urban soundscapes, there are classical references and the band's performance has a gritty matter-of-factness....Improvisation remains at the heart of any jazz performance, and both Leak and Allsopp are strong soloists who grasp complex themes with a firm hand. Leak solos with long lines that move from near-abstraction to rootsy repeats and then fade tantalisingly into the lower register."

Mike Hobart, Financial Times (4 Star Review)

"Inspired and stimulating original music of the highest calibre" 

Adrian Pallant, AP Reviews

"Sam Leak’s quartet darts with fluent ease between finely-spun chamber jazz and open improvisation, all with a fizzing wit and energy" 

Serious

"The suite [for Big Band] was an impressively mature piece of work that some other audience members compared to Duke Ellington, obviously a key influence. I thought I detected more than a hint of Gil Evans in there too. Leak’s distinctive writing and arranging made frequent use of unusual instrumental configurations, for example the opening movement began by deploying two clarinets, two bass clarinets and flute plus four flugel horns. The resultant textures were warm, rich and sonorous... I thought Leak’s suite was superb and represented a considerable artistic achievement." 

Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann

"There's a feeling to some of the writing and the atmospheres created that is both young and fresh, yet also acknowledges that strain of pastoral, relatively blues-free, very English jazz that stretches back through Stan Sulzmann and Nikki Iles and John Taylor to Michael Garrick. Because of that, Aquarium is likely to attract a wide audience from those who might also have Kairos 4tet and Sam Crockatt on their current gig and CD radar." 

Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast

"With their eponymous debut Aquarium accentuated the spaces in-between the music, presenting a polished and deeply textured take on Chamber Jazz. Band leader Sam Leak [is] another prodigious pianist from the Royal Academy who follows in the footsteps of Kit Downes and Gwilym Simcock.

Mercury Recommends

"Sam Leak is one of Britain's brightest Jazz artists with a great future" 

UK Jazz Radio

"The emphasis is wholly on a carefully handled tension in the rhythm section with drums and bass locked in a fraught, plaintive drone, the delicacy of which is emphasized by Blackmore's almost tabla-like snare work and the discreet throb of Gourlay's bass, tantaslizing with two or three note stabs. Leak plays economically, brushing upper register chords with a Satie-like finesse to imbue the whole atmosphere with a brooding grace that is then heightened by Allsopp's stringently wrought overtones and terse but melodic coda"

Kevin Le Gendre, BBC Music Magazine

"The Royal Academy of Music jazz course is now widely renowned for delivering musicians and composers of exceptional quality, not least an impressive lineage of pianists that includes Gwilym Simcock, Tom Cawley, Kit Downes and Ivo Neame. The latest name to add to this roster is Sam Leak, a young musician whose debut album with his ensemble Aquarium is an immensely mature and sophisticated work... Leak is a committed musician, expertly constructing flowing, natural, singing lines and also unafraid of taking risks. His careful touch allows him to draw a distinctive, personal sound from the piano." 

Dan Paton, Music OMH

"The musicianship is of the calibre you'd expect from these four highly trained and experienced mainstays of the London scene"

Daniel Spicer, BBC Music Magazine

"Like his fellow Royal Academy of Music alumni Gwilym Simcock, Ivo Neame and Kit Downes, Leak is a thoughtful and resourceful young pianist with a wonderful touch and a very sensitive ear to the overall ensemble sound. What is striking on a first listen to his new material is how he patiently develops his lines and uses space masterfully. This is another great young talent who looks more than capable of helping to keep the Brit Jazz flag proudly flying well into 2011 and beyond." 
Thomas Gray, London Jazz Blog

"Very talented pianist Sam Leak" 

Rob Adams, Scottish Herald 

"The piece "Shades Of Grey... features Leak at his most lyrical, picking out the delicate tune on piano against the gentle patter of Blackmore's hand drums. Allsopp, on tenor, plays prettily, often in the instrument's upper register, and there's a warm, deeply resonant bass solo from Gourlay. Leak's own solo has a shimmering, pellucid beauty on one of the album's most instantly appealing pieces."I

an Mann, The Jazz Mann

"A set of absorbing compositions from Sam Leak. Excellent playing and interaction in the band - with intelligent use of space, colour and dynamics. A fine achievement." 

John Taylor

"The latest piano sensation, Sam Leak" 

Jazz Steps

"Leader Sam Leak's melodious, flowing compositions had an inky depth to them - like watercolours and took the audience on a soothing, satisfying journey through the 75 minute set." 

Serious

"Leak fingertipping the keys in an elegant fashion that complemented Allsopp's Phrygian modal developmental sections nonetheless delivered, his runs involving satin textures underpinned by Gourlay's round woody sound." 

Stephen Graham, Jazzwise

"the much-admired Sam Leak was undaunted and proved an inventive and prolific soloist" 

Nottingham Post

"Funky, folksy, improvisationally edgy and teeming with ideas, it's another stretch forward for a rising star" 

John Fordham, The Guardian

"Sam Leak's Aquarium also strode that particular musical divide, with subtle shades of introspection and a tentative, questing approach taken by their pianist-leader... Aquarium struck me as a band that asks a lot of eternal questions and isn't looking for immediate cliched answers" 

Sara Mitra, In Praise Of Brecon Jazz Festival

"a commitment to lyricism and detail of inflection distinguish the playing of these musicians. Allowing melody to guide both the improvisations and compositions gives this music a nostalgic quality, yet it feels very much of our time the breadth of its influences." 

Liam Noble

"This is a strong and melodic debut by this fine group of young musicians. Influences are apparent, but they have a real ensemble sound and the set is well paced with a feeling of intimate listening going on. A band to look out for on the live circuit!"

Phil Robson

"I love Sam's writing on this album - the tunes sound really unique, intricate but really memorable. The band playing together also sound like a real unit, like everyone is seeing the tunes from the same angle. I really enjoy hearing bands like this, as this is when the compositions really come to life I think - and in Sam's album this happens. Supporting Sam are three of my favourite musicians, their playing combined with great melodies and textures makes for a really enjoyable record." 

Kit Downes

"Sam's music brings together all that is right about not just contemporary jazz but also new music; the music feels loose and open at times and tight knitted and calculated at others. It marries an open soulfulness with the complexities of rhythm and harmony without a hint of pretension" 

Rory Simmons

"It ['Places'] finds the band exploring in more depth the melodic and at times very spiritual music which characterised its debut and enhances Aquarium's reputation for high quality music... Although Leak's fluid solos loom large, saxophonist James Allsopp's contributions are equally telling and the rhythm section combination of bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer Joshua Blackmore is a triumph of unselfish creativity" 

Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz

"The quartet's accomplished ensemble playing is showcased on the dazzling up-tempo 'Scribbles and Scrawls' as drummer Joshua Blackmore and bassist Calum Gourlay chart the band in one direction before pulling it an another, drawing an instantaneous response from Leak and Allsopp. 'Catherine Grove' (one of the inspired 'places') features further sparkling playing as Leak's clarity of thought constructs an impressive solo." 

Russell Corbett, Bebop Spoken Here

"The busy 'Scribbles and Scrawls' sounds much as one might expect with Leak dispensing torrents of piano above Blackmore's bristling and bustling drum undertow. There's a Jarrett like joyousness in Leak's advertising, as evidenced in the whoops of delight buried in the mix. Allsopp's tenor adds a darker edge, reminiscent perhaps of Dewey Redman's role in Jarrett's classic American quartet... Aquarium is a supergroup of sorts" 

Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann

"There are definite impressions summoned up by this music and the band's approach to it. These feel more like tone poems than jazz work-outs. And that is all to the good as far as this listener is concerned. An absorbing album with strong instrumental interplay and full of the composer's character." 

Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast

"Leak's elegant, concise compositions are engaging and manage to be melancholic without becoming overly sentimental. The music avoids any jazz cliches and feels distinctly British, but in no way alienates itself from the Jazz tradition... Leak's fantastic group present an album that is both varied and cohesive, with a great, identifiable ensemble sound... this is beautiful, intelligent music expertly executed. Highly recommended." 

Benji Powling, Jazz Yorkshire Blog

Leak himself impresses, both as a player and composer, because he's not afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve. The imprint of Keith Jarrett's American quartet is particularly evident, but the group manage nevertheless to carve out a space of their own. By not trying too hard, Aquarium achieve plenty.

Cormac Larkin, Irish Times

"Infused with the energy and commitment that spring naturally from the personal nature of the compositions (inspired as they are by experiences in Milan and Marrakech as well as a mugging in Catherine Grove, London), Places at times positively seethes with vigour and pep, but (appropriately enough, given Leak's predilection for Paul Bley) also contains a fair amount of freer, more introspective playing." 

Chris Parker, London Jazz

"Wildflower’s pianist Jamil Sheriff was unavailable for tonight’s performance and his place was taken by the London based Sam Leak, leader of the quartet Aquarium and more recently of his own Big Band. The versatile Leak did a remarkable job as a “dep", soloing confidently when required and demonstrating excellent sight reading skills as part of a highly supportive rhythm section, it was hard to believe that this was the first time he had played much of the music." 

Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann

"Firedance saw Jurd and Anderson swapping phrases and winding each other up before a deliciously melodic solo from Sam Leak wound its way through the harmony, all glancing boppish phrases, locked beautifully with the pulse from the rhythm unit of Sam Gardner on drums and Sam Vicary’s bass" 

Mike Collins, Jazzy Blog Man (review of Wildflower Sextet)

"His Aquarium Quartet pulls at the heartstrings" 

Mike Hobart, Financial Times

"Pianist Sam Leak made the most of it with the urgency and vigour he brought to his soloing, working closely with the attentive, musical Jay Davis on drums while bassist Tom Wheatley lent quiet assurance" 

Rob Adams, Scottish Herald

"Chord Game starts as a postbop groover, but its countermelody invites a dreamier mood, then a briskly fluent piano solo from the excellent Sam Leak" 

John Fordham, The Guardian (Review of Road Ahead - Mark Perry/Duncan Eagles)

"From this melodic and rhythmic melange the solos emerge like pure poetry, devoid of cheap effects and over dramatic posturing. The leaders are particularly cogent in their solo statements and produce a sound that makes for very pleasant listening but with sufficient incident to keep the ear focused on the storyline. The same is true of Sam Leak’s important contribution and adding Lockrane’s flute to some of the tunes helps fulfil the particular thematic brief and spices up the aural mix." 

Euan Dixon, Jazz Views (Review of Road Ahead - Mark Perry/Duncan Eagles)

"Ray Warleigh’s Quintet played for an hour after this, taking us through a relaxed and playful set of originals. Warleigh, a long time collaborator of Wheeler's, played warm alto nimbly alongside technically accomplished trumpeter Steve Fishwick. The interactive rhythm section showcased a solid Chris Laurence on double bass, a graceful and well-poised Sam Leak on piano and a masterfully attentive and innovative James Maddren on drums." 

Jamie Safiruddin, London Jazz News 

"Leak is both the pianist and composer for Aquarium, and at age 26 already has a wonderfully lyrical ear for melody and arranging. He displays a classical sensibility in shaping his melodies, and allows his partners ample space for complex improvisations that spice up the program...This is a first rate CD that will be high on my list of the best of 2013 at the end of the year. There are no false steps, just eight small masterpieces to the ear." 

ajazzlistenersthoughts.blogspot.co.uk 

"There was superb rapport between leader Sam Leak and his band. The compositions were absorbing, often charmingly melodic. The improvising was imaginative, drawing on a wide range of styles and the performances, though far from strident, were full of feeling. Leak's playing was thoughtful, incisive and unshowy, his evident pianistic skills serving each piece. Saxophonist Allsopp shaped several exquisite solos... Many of the pieces were from the band's soon to be released second album. I plan to buy it."

Shrewsbury Jazz Network 

"Aquarium is a mature and often sumptuous statement of intent"
Daniel Spicer, Jazzwise

"The quintet crafted music that was complex and forward-looking, yet gripping and pithy. Sam Leak invoked the spirit of the electric Miles Davis period as he summoned swampy chords from his rhodes before punctuating the gloom with shrilly oscillating right-hand runs. As Perry's cool-toned trumpet and Josh Ison's jagged saxophone took their turns to solo, Leak picked out and echoed key notes and phrases." 

tempusfugue-it.blogspot.co.uk (Review of Mark Perry Quintet)

"He [Kenny Wheeler] became a patron of the Royal Academy of Music's junior jazz course, and was encouraged by Nick Smart at the academy to make the weekly taxi trip from his home in Leytonstone, east London, for informal jams with students including the pianists Kit Downes and Sam Leak, and the drummer James Maddren – all destined for successful jazz careers." 

John Fordham, The Guardian

"I was pleasantly surprised and relieved by the second band, headed up by pianist and composer Sam Leak, featuring tenor saxophonist James Allsopp. Their music was truly beautiful to listen to. Heavy on modal and modulations mixed with an ethereal time feel and it all worked. Everything was tied together, even by the tiniest thread at times. It was also obvious that these people lived their music. They were engaged with what they were playing, sometimes so much you could almost see the tears. A real pleasure to listen to!" 

www.maxholloway.co.uk

“Sam Leak and Dan Tepfer are two of the best pianists of their generation, and their convergence on this recording is astonishing.” 

Marcus O'Dair 

 

"this is a masterly and hypnotic work which lingers at length in the listener's mind" ★★★★

All About Jazz

"Originally commissioned by the Steinway Festival in 2014, Leak's Adrift is a suite consisting of eight movements, each one rolling into the next with suspenseful pacing, episodic development and harmonic sophistication. The duo shifts elegantly from post-romantic tremolos, to lush, occasional Gershwin-ish dreamscapes through to more pastoral Satie-jazz flavours." ★★★★

Jazzwise Magazine

"Dan Tepfer and Sam Leak share, anticipate, and enhance each other’s thoughts with a subtly crafted empathy that reaches far beyond the jazz loop"

John Fordham

"entirely gripping from beginning to end, achieving an imaginatively coherent overlap between lyrical jazz and classical traditions."

Selwyn Harris

“the music is magical throughout the date... constantly evolving and engaging... Sam Leak will be one to watch and hopefully U.S. jazz fans will have regular access to hearing him in concert and on CD.”

The New York City Jazz Record

 

“Subtle melodic themes sit alongside passionate improvised sections, the two carefully avoiding the collision of notes and egos that can overwhelm the best of piano duos. Throughout, the music is consistently engaging and melodic.... this is a collaborative performance of the highest creativity.”

Jazz Journal


“Sam Leak and Dan Tepfer’s Adrift is delightful, strong and vibrant. It is uplifting, bursting with bravado and energy, which makes listening easy yet also engaging, as there is enough going on to keep both brain and ears engaged right the way through"

Sammy Stein, Something Else

"The quality of the pianism is beyond doubt and the tone exquisite"

Bebop Spoken Here

"Adrift' is a wonderful piece of musical storytelling from two jazz pianists at the top of their game"

Jane Cornwell
 

Sam Leak is one of the finest young pianists on the UK jazz scene, deserving of far wider recognition, not only for his unique improvisational skills, but also for his compositions, which have great breadth and originality, while always being wonderfully accessible and positive... this fantastic duo recording needs to be put before a wider audience"

Helen Mayhew

"A sensitive piano duet that flows from romance and contemplation to turbulence and joy"

Mike Hobart

"Ten out of ten for hooking me in. This short jazzy piano number is addictive" 

vanguard-online.co.uk

 

"prodigiously creative and fluent pianists...a beautifully judged performance"
London Jazz News


“Two gifted jazz pianists who are pushing each other to go off the jazz piste and into somewhere else, and it’s a very beautiful somewhere else... it’s a strong blend of boldness and fragility.”
Max Reinhardt, BBC Radio 3, Late Junction