“The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls.”
For his third Whirlwind release, Pennsylvania-raised, London-based trumpeter Andre Canniere shifts in an oblique direction from previous albums Forward Space and Coalescence with original compositions inspired by the words of Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke and American author Charles Bukowski.
The Darkening Blue is a sextet project which reaches into the heart of Stephen Mitchell’s insightful translations of Rilke, some of which are conveyed by one of UK jazz’s most expressive vocalists, Brigitte Beraha. There are instrumentally diverse interpretations, too, of Bukowski’s writings, which are illuminated throughout by Tori Freestone (tenor sax), Ivo Neame (piano, keyboards, accordion), Michael Janisch (acoustic/electric bass) and Ted Poor (drums).
Combining Rilke’s mystical intensity with a reassuring wistfulness, Beraha delivers lyrical stanzas which rhythmically and organically enfold Canniere’s narrative arrangements to kindle rich, tumbling, connective improvisation – and that sense of engagement and craft flows throughout an album which is as forcefully dynamic as it is emotionally moving, frequently drawing out imaginative displays of virtuosity.
Yearning, waltzing ‘Autumn Day’ bids farewell to summer through Canniere’s lilting instrumental and vocal melodies which are contrastingly imbued with soft aromas and impending solitude; and Bukowski’s poem ‘Bluebird’ (reinterpreted through Monique Canniere’s words) is a sparkling first take whose songlike structure swings out to fluent trumpet and tenor sax improv, while the horns closely mesh with Beraha’s natural, pliant vocalisations (an especially appealing compositional quality here).
Ted Poor’s incisive drumming colorizes ‘Splash’, a buoyant, bass-and-piano-propelled episode which features Freestone’s elegant modal explorations; while the airy tranquillity of Ivo Neame’s electric piano and Canniere’s dreamy trumpet in ‘Area of Pause’ snap into pure energy, throwing caution to the wind in a rippling dash to the finish.
Perhaps a post-modernist theme for turbulent political times, Bukowski’s ‘Hug the Dark’ is menacingly pictorialized through an urgent, heavy-rock groove, with Freestone pushing hard at her tenor’s limits over jagged electric piano, ominous electronics and Michael Janisch’s distorted bass – and, as elsewhere in this hour’s homage to profoundly-communicated verse, Canniere’s own instrumental invention and technique reach new heights.
Creatively embracing the specific progression of Rilke’s poetry, ‘Evening’ falls, rises and then unravels into spine-tingling, paroxysmal free jazz; ‘Going Blind’ finds Beraha’s spirited, precise voice tracing a weightless pathway to eventual freedom; and closing ‘Sunflower’ – a carefree dedication to the leader’s daughter, Emelie – eases out to blithe trumpet, unison horn phrases and Ivo Neame’s characteristically breezy piano.
Andre Canniere is thrilled by the way his new project, with its jazz, indie rock and songwriting influences, has come to fruition: “These are great musicians who intuitively ‘bring their thing’ to my compositions, which is what I love; and I’ve been crazy about the work of Rilke and Bukowski for some time – it can affect people in many different ways. So if I can turn listeners onto some great poetry, introducing them to something in addition to the music, then that’s great.”
"A fine example of a stellar line-up achieving a remarkable amalgam of depth, warmth and sensitivity."
★★★★ All About Jazz
"Canniere's instrumentals confirm his composing power... The band is terrific."
★★★★ The Guardian
"The Darkening Blue is Canniere's most ambitious, wide-ranging and personal album to date."
Jazzwise Magazine (feature)
"The musicianship is beyond reproach."
Bebop Spoken Here
"A lovely sound, with melodic lines flowing easily off into improvisations."
The Jazz Breakfast
“Varied and intriguing... The pairing of Canniere with tenorist Tori Freestone is a delight."
"This is sophisticated yet accessible music, immaculately performed by a crack band of highly compatible musicians."
"A tremendous band, who all impress individually and collectively."
The Northern Echo