And In The Night-Time She Is There
(Basho Records SRCD 41-2)
Reviewed by JJ Wheeler
Trish Clowes reminisces on her innate sense of playfulness as a child, more often deviating from regimented practice routines at the piano to create short melodies that could easily have been the soundtrack to what must have seemed the most charming of existences. And it is this innocence that seems to shine through on this record.
The lack of balls-to-the-wall trickery and showmanship or outstanding (I mean this in the sense of one-man-for-himself as opposed to group cohesion and unity) soloing may mean it takes a few listens before the intentions of this record begin to work their way into your audio-palette, but it’s well worth the wait.
There is a beauty rooted in the often understated structures and seemingly simple (yet often surprisingly complex) ideas, textures perhaps thinner than expected from a tenor quartet-plus-strings combo. And yet, no sense of richness is lost, especially on The Sphinx, an Oscar Wilde poem adapted into musical setting from which the album title is extracted. Here, almost everything on the album comes together to bask in the glow of Kathleen Willison’s voice as the rhythm section of James Maddren (drums), Calum Gourlay(bass) and Chris Montague (guitar) lay down a floaty, dream-like soundscape upon which Clowes and Heidi Parsons (cello) sandwich the occasional counter-melody, embellishing but never distracting from the winding vocal storytelling.
Iris Nonet, a suite of three-parts, is dedicated to Clowes’ grandmother and certainly stands alone as a seperate entity to the rest of the album, not just due to the expanded string section and inclusion of Gwilym Simcock (what a great name to call on for a track or two… if only we all had the option!), but in its inherently more “contemporary classical” feel. Whilst the beauty and gracefulness of all that has come before is still present, there is definitely something slightly darker to be associated with the bumps, scrapes, juxtaposed rhythms and extended techniques employed almost parallel to the unfolding landscape of Trish Clowes solo on Iris Nonet 1.
I find it particularly interesting to hear Chris Montague on this record, in yet another guise. Fans of Troyka or the recent Blue Touch Paper album by Colin Towns know that he can certainly throw up his distinctive snarly, rhythmically-intense, Wayne Krantz-inspired soloing with consummate ease over the heaviest of riffs. Some may have heard him tactfully plugging away in a bluesy, yet still adrenaline-pumping way with the James Taylor Quartet. Here he is, though, with another hat on, successfully adding to the quintessentially British musical landscape, in which patience is a virtue.
Given time and repeated listening, this album unfolds and will manifest itself as the delicate, intricate work of beauty that it is. You’ll find yourself whistling the melodies you first thought too quirky to hold onto. Buy this album not only to support truly British Jazz, but also as an ointment for your soul!
Look out for Trish Clowes and various formats of the group from Quartet to full Nonet with special guest on tour late Sept-Oct. More details here.