This is an album of solo piano pieces which the Birmingham-based pianist describes as “an experiment in artistic research.” Together with the tunes – which have titles like Sunlicked And Wrapped In Love, Icarus Rising, and All Tears Empty Into The Ocean – there are words, in the form of messages in the album cover, which are intended to be read as an integral part of the work. Steve is interested in the interaction of the words you read and the music you hear in simultaneous integration or juxtaposition. And that album title is important because, in a way, each piece of music and each message is filled with degrees of both those apparently contradictory emotions.
Here is an extract from one of the messages which is particularly pertinent to the jazz life:
Who’d choose a career like this
who’d even call it a career
Sure it has its high points
but they don’t put food on your table man
in your cupboards
a downpayment on a property
furniture in your room
clothes on your back
a pocket of notes to spend
To spend on a meal
a life with a girl
There are not many jazz musicians as comfortable with words as they are with music, as keen on exploring ideas of life and music in as many different ways as they can. Steve is currently working on a thesis which investigates jazz performance as research in and of itself. You can read his more blog-friendly ideas around that theme on the Deep Thoughts section of this site.
The music, as with all Steve’s music, is immediate, absorbing, deadly serious, yet offered with such open generosity. There are musicians who are precious about their art and think that in so being they somehow give their art a deeper meaning; Steve isn’t precious about his because he knows it’s deep and serious.
This is a profoundly personal work and it communicates on a profoundly personal level. What I might make of the music and the words is completely different from what you might make of them. And how about the art of listening as research? Hey, we’re all researchers now!
At first I had a bit of a problem with the sound of the album. The piano rings, is slightly echoey and has all sorts of overtones; the piano stool creaks. Then I started to imagine Steve hunched over an old upright in a mahogany-floored, old photograph-lined, crepuscular front room somewhere in a Birmingham suburb. And that picture in my mind then drew me to the sound and I ended up liking it for its originality and slightly outsider artist, amateurish (in a good sense) quality.
Of course it might have been recorded in a proper studio with the finest grand, but I’m happier with my own mind’s eye vision. It’s that kind of album. Personal and individual, elemental and human. And very romantic, of course.
Categories: CD review