miércoles, 3 de diciembre de 2014

The Sirkis / Bialas International Quartet - Come To Me (2014)

THE INVITATION to share in the rarefied, positive atmospheres contained within this debut release from the Sirkis Bialas International Quartet is tangible from an ensemble who evidently love what they create together.

Acclaimed drummer and percussionist Asaf Sirkis’ 2013 album Shepherd’s Stories included amongst its jazz/rock solidity an enchanting, wordless cameo appearance by Polish vocalist Sylwia Bialas whose new-age tones were so intriguing as to suggest the development of a future musical collaboration. This conceptual spark has now ignited a synergetic new quartet with pianist Frank Harrison and bassist Patrick Bettison, featuring the broad scope of Bialas’ vocal dexterity.

Dividing equally the ten compositions of Come To Me, Sirkis and Bialas create expansive landscapes (jazz, folk, world, prog) which are, in turns, contemplative, brooding and joyfully animated. Sylwia Bialas uses her voice either to shape her self-penned native lyrics or to explore more and more inventive instrumental avenues, frequently taking it through seemingly unreachable pitches and athletic rhythmic patterns. And the distinction here is the constant interaction with her fellow players; this is no ‘singer plus band’ set-up, but rather a fully integrated quartet whose conception feels unique.

Patrick Bettison’s conversational electric bass style bears something of a resemblance to that of supremo Jeff Berlin, his fretless-like timbre a good match for Bialas’ various intonations; Frank Harrison displays all the sparky virtuosity and tender lyricism of his own trio albums and catalogue of recordings with Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble; and former Orient House colleague Asaf Sirkis is as commanding as ever in providing the quartet’s complex rhythmic backbone plus typically infinite elaborations (his accomplished Konnakol skills need to be heard and seen to be believed!).

Title track Come To Me offers a first glimpse of the band’s telepathy, its sparse, unison vocal and piano motif opening into Gustavsenesque transcendence, and Bialas’ lyrics evolving as liltingly sung improvisation. The empyreal lucidity of Dreams Dreams is haunting, with a measured pace maintained by Sirkis’ intricate cymbal patterns; and Vortex spins propulsively to Bettison’s mobile bass (entertaining to watch, live, the concentration required to hold his ostinato position against Sirkis’ audacious cross-rhythms) as Bialas stretches out broadly and magnificently.

The otherwise quiet introversion of Sylwia Bialas’ Ismael is pierced by an emotional Middle Eastern vocal style, Harrison displaying his customary high-searching piano finesse, and Bettison’s harmonica extemporisations adding a sophisticated sense of mystery. Recognisably Sirkis’ writing, A Hymn possesses a certain ‘prog ominousness’, showcasing the effectiveness of Bialas’ voice as an instrument, whilst Mandragora builds into a bristling, cosmopolitan melting pot of so many ideas and influences – a great performance.

Bialas’ lucent Polish lyricism in The One shines out, echoed by lofty instrumental delicacy; and the energy of Magnolia is infectious, Sirkis revelling in its percussive possibilities. Inspired by the subject of paranormal light trails in imagery, the band again summon their combined aptitude for conveying fragility in Orbs – spatial and otherworldly, it holds the attention so beautifully. And Sirkis’ rock-driven closer, Orgon, ripples to the eloquence of Bettison’s bass and Harrison’s electric piano, concluding with mischievous, disquieting electronic vocal effects from Bialas.

Choose your moment with this album – but late evening (“In the silence of the night, in the depth of nothingness”) is when its magic is especially revealed, with the space reflecting every nuance that has been placed and captured so crystal-clearly. Launched at the EFG London Jazz Festival on 21 November 2014, claim that wonder for yourself at Bandcamp.

Asaf Sirkis drums, compositions
Sylwia Bialas vocals, overtone singing, compositions
Frank Harrison piano, keyboards
Patrick Bettison electric bass, chromatic harmonica

01. Come To Me 08:08
02. Dreams Dreams 05:25
03. Vortex 07:02
04. Ismael 07:58
05. A Hymn 05:43
06. Mandragora 06:30
07. The One 04:38
08. Magnolia 05:02
09. Orbs 07:05
10. Orgon 07:56

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


George Robert & Kenny Barron - The Good Life (2014)


George Robert, Alto Sax
Kenny Barron, Piano

01. The Good Life
02. Hymn To Life
03. Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most
04. Florence
05. Japanese Garden
06. A Time For Love
07. Billy Strayhorn
08. Pully Port
09. Lush Life
10. Goodbye

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Trish Clowes - Pocket Compass (2014)

With this her third album, Trish Clowes is now standing out from the crowd and proving once and for all that she is one of the most original saxophonists and composers on the UK scene, and ready to take her place on the international stage.

Pocket Compass should be regarded as a major statement from the 30 year old Clowes in an all encompassing set of original compositions that bring together disparate styles and influences to create a unified whole. Her use of the BBC Concert Orchestra for three pieces, ‘Radiation’, ‘Balloon’ and ‘Chorale’, placed strategically at the beginning, middle and end of the album should not be perceived as distinct from the compositions that feature her small group Tangent, as all eight cuts feed into and off one another seamlessly.

As an instrumentalist she makes full use of both tenor and soprano saxophones, and her tone and control of multiphonics on both horns is quite remarkable. The musicianship on ‘Pfeiffer and the Whales’ is staggering, and second only to the needs of the composition; this is also true of her soprano playing on the quirky and ambiguous ‘Wayne’s Waltz’ dedicated to Wayne Shorter. ‘Symphony in Yellow’ takes its cue from the poem by Oscar Wilde with Clowes’s tenor saxophone solo a model of invention. Not to be outdone, Gwilym Simcock and guitarist, Chris Montague also acquit themselves with outstanding contributions in their own solos.

In her writing Trish is careful not to overplay her hand, and there is nothing superfluous or flabby about the arrangements. In writing for the BBC Concert orchestra she has not confined herself in to arranging the music for classical musicians, but uses the orchestra to her own ends in making this large aggregation conform to her musical will, at times utilising the ensemble as one would a conventional big band.

This is as good an album as any that I’ve heard in a long time, and whilst a late entry due to its November release date undoubtedly a strong contender for Album of the Year.

1. Radiation* 7.16
2. Question Mark 6.57
3. Porcupine 6.54
4. Symphony In Yellow 9.03
5. Balloon* 7.57
6. Pfeiffer and the Whales 5.33
7. Wayne's Waltz 6.38
8. Chorale* 6.37

*with the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by André de Ridder

All music written and arranged by Trish Clowes

Trish Clowes Tenor and Soprano Saxophones
Gwilym Simcock Piano
Chris Montague Electric Guitar
Calum Gourlay Double Bass
James Maddren Drums

Recorded 22nd January 2014 - Small Band recorded March 3rd and 4th 2014