‘A Room Somewhere’ – Liam Noble

LiamNoble

LISTENING BACK through the CD collection of recent years, it’s the inquiring pianism of Liam Noble that provides an edge to recordings by the likes of Mark Lockheart, Julian Siegel, Alex Garnett and the delightfully anarchic Pigfoot.

As an educator, Noble no doubt inspires the same satisfying, left-field spirit of creativity in others, whilst his 2009 trio ‘take’ on Dave Brubeck’s work was hailed by the late, great man as “an inspiration and a challenge for me to carry on in the avenues that you have opened. I’ve never gone so far into the unknown as you three but I have opened the door and peeked in. Your CD is an invitation to enter.

Now, with his first solo release in 20 years, the pianist quite remarkably reveals his intentional avoidance of writing music for the two-day studio session. And whilst such ultimate freedom in improvisation might initially seem disconcerting, the recorded opportunity to re-visit these imaginings provides the intrigue (Noble likening his deconstructed interpretations of familiar tunes to slalom skiing: “Taking out all the poles, only a bare slope remains. So I leave some in, but try to surprise myself (and the listener) about where they are”).

It’s a fascinating course to traverse, the recognisable melody of Wouldn’t It Be Loverly (the ‘room somewhere’ from My Fair Lady) coming more clearly into view towards the finishing line, once Noble has freestyled obliquely. Through its sparseness and melancholy, Paul Simon’s Tenderness is easily discerned, though flecked with sumptuous, alternative chordal colour and sensitive rubato; and Noble’s bubbling solo piano variation of Directions is striking in its acoustic interpretation of Joe Zawinul’s electronic, early fusion abstractness. Classic There Is No Greater Love swaggers and swings brightly (imagine an animated and varied conversation between Ellington and Monk) – and here, as frequently throughout the album’s sequence, the urge to replay and catch new detail is compelling. Indeed, Thelonious Monk’s own Round Midnight hides amongst the shadows in Noble’s considered ruminations, demanding careful attention.

The memory of the late, great Kenny Wheeler is honoured in a bustling reading of Sophie (from Music for Large & Small Ensembles); and standard Body and Soul is the subject of perhaps the most impressionistic of all of the pianist’s concepts, initially far removed from any thoughts of Louis or Billie – yet it slowly and delicately unfurls to reveal its beauteous jazz hues. Six White Horses is a real ear-grabber, with Noble simulating so well the US Country feel of the galloping, banjo-accompanied original, especially through judicious internal muting of the piano strings.

And then there are Noble’s own creations – Major Minor, which rings to deep-end prepared piano and percussive, Ginastera-like flair; Now, whose chiming harmonics are a joy (with Debussian overdub melodic variation Now and Then); and I Wish Played Guitar, its magnificently disturbed undertow reflecting the title.

Quite what Sir Ed (and Lady Elgar) might think of the pianist’s closing “tinkering” with their engagement celebration piece, Salut d’Amour… well, I could probably guess! But, though it takes far more liberties than Ken Russell’s classic Monitor movie of the early ’60s, it does reveal a deep understanding of the salon favourite’s harmonic structure – and ‘Edu’ enjoyed a jape or two.

So, what of the macaw sharing the cover art spotlight? It’s Liam’s “accomplice” – a visual metaphor for the colourful unpredictability of it all. Mr Brubeck would surely recommend ‘peeking in and entering.’

Released on 25 May 2015 – on Basho Records – A Room Somewhere is available from JazzCDs and all good jazz outlets.

 

Liam Noble piano

liamnoble.co.uk

Basho Records – SRCD 48-2 (2015)

‘String Theory’ – Partikel

Partikel

WITH A THRASHING RIFF worthy of Jimmy Page, chordless trio Partikel announce their boldest statement yet in new release String Theory – a collaboration with a dynamic string quartet led by violinist Benet McLean.

Originally formed for Monday night jam sessions on the London jazz circuit, Partikel – Duncan Eagles (saxes), Max Luthert (double bass) and Eric Ford (drums) – have established themselves over the past few years with regular gigging, resulting in two previous albums (eponymous debut Partikel and 2012’s Cohesion). Now, further extending their possibilities with strings, that initial Led Zep-fuelled outpouring dramatically signals their renewed intent in a 12-track programme mostly composed and arranged by saxophonist Eagles.

Three-part Clash of the Titans reveals the augmented band’s creative process, the arrangements described as being “almost exclusively conceived on the bandstand… spontaneous musical exchanges that flowed from the heat of performance have been added to the compositions.” And that sense of discovery makes for an absorbing listen. Following the heavily rocking intro, the ‘concerto’ develops into atmospheres in which the string quartet becomes an integral part – certainly no grotesque, strap-on afterthought – with Midnight Mass (part 3) irridescing to luscious sax improvisation and sumptuous strings.

Shimmer‘s perky melodies are tossed about between sax and strings, buoyed by Eric Ford’s lively, creative percussion, until Benet McLean’s virtuosic solo violin introduces The Buffalo, a mesmerising, udu-accompanied episode with expansive, filmic qualities. Swinging an’ a-swaggering, Bartering with Bob is endearingly confident and as high-spirited as a rollicking old standard (like Monk without piano!), Eagles responding articulately to the temerarious bass and drums of Luthert and Ford; and in the graceful meandering of The River, the string quartet’s eloquence and empathy with the Partikel trio is beautifully captured – here in particular, Eagles’ soprano impresses with Coltranesque abandon and invention.

Smouldering Wray Common softly grooves to udu, bass and smooth tenor, with fabulously expressive strings; and Eagles’ alchemistic tenor reading of Johnny Green’s familiar Body and Soul intertwines effectively with Matthew Sharp’s emotive cello and the Kronos-like spikiness of the quartet as a whole, all adorned by Ford’s elaborate percussion. Partikel ‘laid bare’ is as immediate as ever in Cover, soprano, bass and drums weaving their spell with customary vivacity; and searing string glissandi add verve to closing number The Landing, Eagles’ tenor wildly jitterbugging to Luthert’s and Ford’s rapid animation.

As a trio, Partikel have clearly become stronger, unafraid to venture into the unknown, and looking to develop their musical journey with both spontaneity and bravura. Released by Whirlwind on 11 May 2015, further information, promo video and purchasing can be found at the dedicated String Theory web page.

Duncan Eagles saxophones
Max Luthert bass
Eric Ford drums
with
Benet McLean violin
David Le Page violin
Carmen Flores viola
Matthew Sharp cello

Current 2015 tour dates
28 May: Watermill Jazz Club, Dorking
2 June: LAUNCH – Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London
26 June: The Verdict, Brighton
28 June: Ashburton Live
29 June: North Devon Jazz Club, Appledore
1 July: Fisher Theatre, Bungay

partikel.co.uk

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4671 (2015)