The Rock Between
Reviewed by JJ Wheeler
To metamorphose is to change in form. However, unlike metamorphic rock, formed over thousands of years, pianist Laura Cole’s compositions and arrangements often turn on the spot, introducing new textures, melodies and dense harmonies that whet the palate.
The striking voice of Kerry Andrew, combined with John Martin’s breathy tenor sax and various clapped ostinato rhythms creates an immediately organic feel to the opener,Light Up Yourself. The outstanding soloist of the record, Led Bib’s Chris Williams, does an excellent job of building a gut-wrenching alto saxophone solo over very little material indeed. That is not to criticise the use of riffs and shorter melodies throughout this record – in contrast it is a great skill Cole possesses, taking nuggets of material that really please the ear and manipulating them into multi-layered tunes, meandering from one idea to the next gracefully, yet with purpose and intensity.
An arrangement of Monk’s Ruby, My Dear and the hauntingly beautiful Bylullaby (the two shorter tunes of the record) provide the only respite from this trait, both developing the chosen melodies wonderfully.
As intriguing and well written as the rest of the album may be, nothing comes close to the superbly balanced arrangement of Two Feet Tall/Nardis/Sunshower (Laura Cole/Miles Davis/Kenny Barron), which serves as an incredible finale to the album. Incorporating all that makes this record so fresh and enjoyable, this multi-segued arrangement ebbs from spoken vocal and piano duet through one of the most interesting versions of Nardis (rhythmically augmentation and edgy harmonies included), building up to a rhythm-led section in 19/8 that explodes into life with the entry of the front line to create a fitting climax.
You have to take your hat off to Laura Cole and her band, who’ve done an excellent job in creating this record. The bandleader’s compositions and orchestration are a particular strong point and, for those who haven’t heard it, Kerry Andrew’s voice is a delight. A further mention must go to Paul Sandy and Tom Greenhalgh on bass and drums, both negotiating the tricky time and groove changes with ease, as well as adding appropriate colour to every tune. The challenge now, for Metamorphic, is to develop this material over a series of gigs, as such complex and highly composed arrangements can often leave little room for manoeuvre. We can only look forward to the band’s response.
(Metamorphic: The Rock Between is released on 4 April 2011. Lookout for various tour dates around the UK around the same time or go to www.myspace.com/lauracolegroup)