Huw Warren: Hermeto + (Basho Records SRCD 30-2)
The Swansea-born classical and jazz trained pianist and composer has played with John Cage, has deputised for Django Bates in Loose Tubes, has collaborated with musicians in the folk sphere, like June Tabor and Eddie Reader, has made some fabulous discs for the Babel label, including one which drew on the music of 16th-century lutenist and composer John Dowland, has been awarded a BBC Jazz Award for Innovation and was commissioned to write a work for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and choir. He was a crucial member of Perfect Houseplants, and has also worked with US violinist Mark Feldman and Italian singer Maria Pia De Vito.
And yet, despite all this, he is still, in my view, a jazz player ( in the words of the Downbeat magazine poll category) deserving wider recognition. He has such a great and personal style, always identifiable, a gorgeous synthesis of jazz and classical styles plus a very rich take on the folk music of these isles.
He brings all those influences to bear, here upon the music and inspiration of the Brazilian bandleader, composer and all-round extraordinary human being Hermeto Pascoal. Hermeto’s songs are interleaved with Huw’s own, and a rich tapestry they make.
With the pianist are frequent collaborators Peter Herbert on bass and MartinFrance on drums. The interplay is strong and integrated, the music is, as usual with Warren, difficult to pin down stylistically because he brings such an eclectic mix of influences to bear. What it sounds like, in the end, is a Huw Warren album, which is just fine by me. But at the same time, it is wonderfully true to the spirit of Pascoal. And it is this ability to bring his own personality out while still honouring another musician – whether it is composers like Dowland or Pascoal, or players and singers like June Tabor – that gives Warren that ideal blend of master and servant (of the music).
And just listen to the way in which, even on songs he hasn’t written – Santa Caterina, for example – he can bring his own very personal sound into play in his choice of chord voicings – it’s even there in Peter Herbert’s bowed bass melody playing. A piece like this shows the essential Warren power – a lyrical, rhapsodic way with a song that makes it timeless and unconfined by geography, too. Just as Hermeto’s music is universal, so is Warren’s.
Oh, and there is also some lovely accordion playing from Warren too, though, unlike Pascoal, he doesn’t let his multi-instrumentalism extend to the kettle!
This is a stunning album which, I hope, will begin to bring Huw Warren the much wider recognition he so justly deserves. Buy it, and invest in the back catalogue too.