Given that 20th-century English classical composers were often highly influenced by the folk tradition and thus wrote music with strong melodies and springy rhythms, it’s surprising that contemporary English jazz players have not looked their way more often for material. Before the arrival of this CD by Pete Churchill on piano, Tony Woods on saxophone and flute and Rob Millett on percussion interpreting music by Delius, Finzi and Vaughan Williams, the only other example that springs readily to mind is the version of Walton’s Touch Her Soft Lips And Part played by John Taylor with Peter Erskine and Palle Danielsson.
Mostly the Avalon Trio sticks to the mood of the original pieces: try the dreamy and pastoral mood of the title track, adapted from Finzi’s 5 Bagatelles for clarinet and piano, with Wood using the rich tone of an Indian Basuri wooden flute and the clarinet part as a springboard, or the country fairground cheerfulness of Brigg Fair, a traditional song adapted by Delius.
Sometimes the interpretations extend the original vibe somewhat – Tony Woods’ Summer Night On the Water strikes me as a whole lot funkier than the one that inspired Delius’s original sound picture. Maybe a strong wind whipped up, or a sudden thunderstorm pitted the water… Finzi’s Dead In The Cold has a contained, almost flamenco flair to its bittersweet, funereal air, which warms the body as well as the rising soul.
Woods is a wonderfully articulate player who always brings a lyrical quality to his solos, whether blowing cool or hot; Churchill has a composerly understanding of the rich harmonic material at his disposal, and his own two compositions fit in a treat, while his revoicing of the non-originals gives equal weight to the classical and jazz traditions; Millett brings a wide range of sounds to the party, and somehow make tabla sound thoroughly English.
The interaction of the three musicians suggests a strong mutual respect, a common vision and that this project is something close to their hearts. They have already played this music live in a short tour in the early summer, and they will be coming to the English Midlands on 9 September to perform it for the Derby Jazz Club (see here for more details).
Forlana is available in all the usual ways, and also from their label’s own site which is here.
Categories: CD review