Category Archives: Albums I really like

Albums I really like

Album of 2015: Maciek Pysz – A Journey

Maciek Pysz - A Journey
Maciek Pysz – A Journey
This album is pure, clean, austere. Not austere in the sense of frugal or bleak – no, not at all. Austere in the sense of simplicity, modesty and honesty, the powerful starkness you experience in the unadorned interior of an abbey such as Pontigny.  I have lived with and loved this album for twelve months, from the very first listening.  A Journey by Maciek Pysz is my album of 2015 because of its beauty, its emotional depth and variety, and the dazzling compositional and performance talents of Maciek Pysz on guitar.

A Journey is guitarist and composer Maciek Pysz’s second album, recorded and engineered once more by Stefano Amerio at Artesuono Studio with the same musicians as his first album Insight – Yuri Goloubev on bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums – but with the inspired choice of Daniele di Bonaventura on piano and bandoneon. The mutual inspiration between Pysz and Bonaventura on bandoneon is nowhere clearer than on the haunting Innocente by Ralph Towner with its delicate impressionist water colour introduction. This has a touch of genius about it, inspired by the moment.

You can appreciate this album for the beauty of the sound: clear, pristine and sparkling yet warm – everything you would want to hear in an acoustic guitar if you can’t actually be in the room with it  – this album is made for vinyl. But you soon forget the technicalities as you are swept away in the emotions of each composition. Take Water Streets inspired by a trip to Venice, the gentle rocking of a gondola, the ripple of sunlight on ancient facades, masks and carnival – you experience all of these things unforgettably in just a few bars.  The clarity is not just clarity of sound, but clarity and honesty of emotion, and that is why I love this album so much.  There is no escaping the wistfulness of  Until Next Time, the opening bandoneon so full of longing, the warmth and peace of Coming Home, the affection in Paris, the joyous momentum of Always On The Move.  

Insight was my album of 2013, reviewed here.  There is no denying the technical, stylistic and emotional growth in this second album, the easy flow of melody disguising music that is challenging to perform. It is unnecessary to list influences since Maciek has his own sound and colour pallet, as subtle, gorgeous and extensive as any painter’s, every note delivered with passion and breathtaking skill.  It was quite evidently a magical few days in the studio with inspiration from all involved. And the order of tracks is very satisfying, from opening  Fresh Look to closing Coming Home.  A perfectly executed work of art in every sense.  And what next?  Well, I for one can’t wait for the next stage in this particular journey….but in the meantime, I will always enjoy A Journey.

Mary James works with Maciek Pysz as his manager

marycjamesmanagement 

‘A Journey ‘ is released on Dot Time Records

www.maciekpysz.com

 

Album review: Mark Pringle – A Moveable Feast (released Sept 2015)

A Moveable FeastFollowing in the footsteps of his hero Hemingway, award winning pianist and protegé of John Law, Mark Pringle recently studied in Paris. The influence of this time can be heard in this adventurous and interesting album for 12 piece orchestra, A Moveable Feast, released on Stoney Lane Records.

Like the book by Hemingway, this album is full of vivid impressions that grew on me with repeated listenings, the compositions echoing Hemingway’s memorable Paris residents, the smells, the cold, the drinking, but in the album we meet trees, plants and he writer himself. The opening composition ‘A Real Bombshell‘ with arresting and unsettling piano, and striking trumpet solo by Percy Pursglove, is sinister, chaotic and slightly sleazy.

The short album feels through-composed, the stories flow gently from one to another with plinks on the piano, muffled squeaks and creaks from woodwind and strings, the sounds of a city. The joyful calypso ‘Happy Plants ( Part II)’ is sandwiched between darker compositions, the 31 minute album as satisfying as a rich Parisian dinner. A very lovely ‘And That’s OK’ gently closes the album.

Mark has an extensive tour with his Trio or the full orchestra throughout September 2015, definitely worth catching, this young pianist could become the British Brad Mehldau, his many projects an indicator of a very great and mature talent.

http://www.markpringlemusic.com/

Mary James 23 August 2015

Album review: -isq: too

isq_tooWhy did I love this album the moment I heard it? The album is Too by -isq and let’s get the acronyms and wordplay out of the way – isq stands for Irene Serra Quartet.  And the Too of the title refers to their second album.  So that’s done, now why do I love it?  For a while I have thought of  singer-songwriter Irene Serra as the London equivalent of  Silje Nergaard, whose stellar band was made up of the then Tord Gustavsen Trio (with the greatly missed Harald Johnsen and Jarle Vespestad).  The delicacy of support and phrasing that Silje commanded  in her band was unsurpassed for a singer who nearly made it big in pop, who totally charmed us with her “Be still my heart” and “How am I supposed to see the stars”.

So when I first came across Irene with her composition “Unforgettable You” (not on the album) I was immediately reminded of Silje.   But this is no copy, although her band is every bit as skillful and moving as that with Silje, we have moved into darker territory with Irene, whose tragic, sultry voice is more suited to our times, and is the voice we all want – passionate, vulnerable, fragile yet strong, without a trace of regret.

The album consists of eight of Irene’s compositions. Each is striking, self aware, all are about love, or loss of it, or complicated love, there are no happy endings here.  The tempos are like a girl skipping down the street, sometimes fast, sometimes slowing down, turning round to look at us thoughtfully and then moving on.  The final track  “Light and Shade” is defiant, yet tip toes away, the perfect way to leave us, no looking back. Highly recommended.

Touring right now, catch her and be entranced!

isq are:

  • Irene Serra, vocals
  • Richard Sadler, double bass
  • Chris Nickolls, drums
  • John Crawford, piano

http://www.isqmusic.com/

Mary James, 1 April 2015

Album review: Live Foyn Friis: Running Heart (CLP CD 138)

LiveFoynFriisRunningHeartI have enjoyed Norwegian born, Denmark-based singer songwriter Live Foyn Friis’s charming, quirky voice (it is clear and natural with a delicate vibrato) and poetic lyrics for a while. The fact that she continues with her top notch band on her album Running Heart is an added attraction. She is joined by Alex Jønsson on guitar (and Thom Yorke-like vocals too), Jens Mikkel on bass and Andreas Skamby on percussion, with layers added by a cello (played by Maria Isabel Edlund), kalimba, organ, additional vocals and a euphonium. The wonderful thing about Scandinavian jazz-pop-electronica is that they are not afraid to play under-used instruments like banjos (in this case, a euphonium and kalimba), and the catchiness of tunes disguises complex interesting music which belies the label “pop”.  Her band all played with great gusto and joy on I Think You’re Awesome and do so again here with her.

More electronic than her other work Live Foyn Friis with Strings, this album of own compositions, all love songs, is sophisticated, dark and haunting.  Live has many projects from Big Band to Foyn Trio! (improvised pop) and an enviable list of bands and collaborations. She is touring South America now, and her website mentions a tour of Angola in 2017.  The battery of sounds and effects creates an ethereal, fairytale disorientation which will go down very well in large venues, and it would be great to see her in the UK.

Running Heart is released on Curling Legs.

Mary James  17 January 2015

Album review: Roller Trio: Fracture (released December 2014)

Roller_Trio_FractureJust three words will do – stonking unforgettable tunes! But more than that – the long-awaited second album, Fracture, from Mercury Prize and MOBO nominated Roller Trio was worth the wait and the band can be rightly very proud of it.  The album is beautifully structured, with early tracks sounding like Roller Trio of old (cracking good tunes, lightning riffs, snappy changes of tempo, crashes and growls, that unmistakable warm sound) moving on to some more abstract pieces which have a serenity of mood and togetherness at their core that is very beautiful.  The ghostly and menacing  Low Tide  is surely destined to be expanded into a movie soundtrack?   They can slow it right down as in the pulsating, shimmering Tracer where the space allows you to savour each instrument and sound effect.

Roller_Trio_by_Tom_Thiel1Play this album loud! And see them live, like Portico before them, they are made for large venues – we probably won’t ever again see Saturn V rocket take-offs  for the moon – but Roller Trio are the next best thing for sending a shiver down your spine!

★★★★★

Mary James 12 January 2015