Thursday, May 11, 2017

Josephine Davies - Satori (WHIRLWIND RECORDINGS 2017)

An improvisatory trio project reflecting the definition of its Buddhist title Satori – a moment of enlightening presence and inner spaciousness away from the clutter of thought – finds British saxophonist and composer Josephine Davies collaborating with sidemen Dave Whitford (double bass) and Paul Clarvis (drums) in an immersive album of chordless originals. 

Josephine Davies’ varied artistic journey includes classical saxophone quartets and line-ups, as well as key involvement in more expansive ensembles such as the Pete Hurt Orchestra and as resident tenorist and composer with the London Jazz Orchestra. But returning to a sound world invoked by the immediate solo-horn character of John Coltrane and founded on an absorbing live debut performance at London’s Iklectik creative space, this partnership focuses primarily on intuitive, extended, three-way responses to Davies’ intentionally minimal writing, based around key centers, rather than prescriptive harmonic sequences. 

The resultant, flowing chemistry between these exponents of in-the-moment music making becomes fascinating to explore, as explained by Josephine: “Dave and Paul make things their own very quickly – their creativity and spontaneity always bring something new, and the trio is able to move forward with great ease. So there’s a real draw to this sense of space; having the freedom to explore ideas, without a harmony instrument, not knowing where they will lead.” And the saxophonist’s own melodic wellspring produces the most unfettered, often intoxicating expressions of slow-burning lyricism and sonorous exuberance.

Haunting, syringeal soprano sax weaves and loops around the restless percussiveness of bass and drums in ‘Insomnia’ – and, typically, instead of observing standard solo calls, the group dynamics organically shift to accentuate specific instrumental phrases and ideas. The snappy asymmetrical rhythm of ‘Crisp Otter’ (say it, and the reference to the US saxman, and his Underground Band, becomes evident) grooves deliciously to Davies’ aqueous tenor; and rambunctious, technically-challenging ‘The Yips’ pervades the air with celebratory, South African-style fervor. 

Three pieces originally conceived as a segued medley proceed with ‘Something Small’ – a chirpy, almost Bernsteinesque theme which is deconstructed with aplomb before its seemingly reluctant recapitulation. Following, and named after George Merryweather’s bizarre 19th Century leech barometer, the fast-swinging turmoil of ‘The Tempest Prognosticator’ is boisterously defined by Clarvis and Whitford at their effusive best; while darkly-writhing ‘Snakes’ (one of four tracks recorded before audience) stretches out across almost ten minutes, showcasing Davies’ broad, inventive palette. The joyfully rhythmic swagger of ‘Paradoxy’, with firm echoes of Sonny Rollins, appears in two different takes – a nod to classic jazz albums of the ‘50s and ‘60s – both turning lively individual spotlights on each player. 

As a recording to experience again and again, Satori also emphasizes the inherent dynamics and energy present in live music – the vital lifeblood of any improvising musician. And this particular environment is something in which Josephine Davies foresees plenty of future mileage: “I imagined that this trio, with Dave and Paul, would be playful, energetic, exciting; and even had the sound in my head. But the outcome is even better – so inspiring, and so much fun.”

1. Insomnia 07:37
2. Something Small 05:28
3. The Tempest Prognosticator 06:07
4. Snakes 09:40
5. Paradoxy 06:36
6. Crisp Otter 06:44
7. The Yips 06:49
8. Paradoxy (Alternate Take) 05:24 

Josephine Davies - tenor and soprano saxophones
Dave Whitford - double bass
Paul Clarvis - drums 

Tracks 1, 2, 4, 7 recorded live @ Jazz Nursery, iklectik (June 2016) 
Tracks 3, 5, 6, 8 recorded @ iklectik on (Sept 2016) 
Recording Engineer - Alex Bonney 
Mixed by Nick Wollage 
Mastered by Peter Beckmann (London, Dec 2016) 
Producer - Josephine Davies 
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch