CD Review: Julie Sassoon Land of Shadows



Julie Sassoon - Land of Shadows
(jazzwerkstatt 127. CD Review by Chris Parker)


Since moving to Berlin in 2009, pianist Julie Sassoon has, in Jazz Festival Director Bert Noglik’s words, confronted the fact that ‘Each and every Jew in Berlin has a different story to tell. [...] echoes, shadows, doubts and questions are [her] companions.’

The six solo-piano pieces on this album (which comes with a 20-minute DVD filmed at the city’s Neue Synagoge) derive much of their considerable emotional power from what Noglik refers to as ‘delving into a continuum, re-enduring the past and cleansing it at the same time’, but they also document, particularly in ‘New Life’ (written when Sassoon was pregnant with her daughter), the hope and optimism that have sprung from the courage required for this confrontational process.

Sassoon’s approach to solo piano – rather like Keith Jarrett’s in Cologne nearly 40 years ago – is to spin mesmerising improvisations from repeated – often relatively simple, even minimalist – note clusters or motifs, ‘directions where the tires press’ (as in Thom Gunn’s ‘On the Move’), but – like the poem’s Hell’s Angels – readily exploring diversions as they reveal themselves to her along the way.

Accordingly, thunderous bass notes, ringing churchbell-like passages, the subtlest of ethereal sounds highlighted by her light singing, are all incorporated, entirely naturally, in an improvisational method neatly described thus by Noglik: ‘... from hidden depths she unearths the sounds, one by one, she threads them into chains, bundles them up into sound clusters, and lets them slide back gently into silence’.

Immersion in her unique soundworld is an affecting experience that will be available to London Jazz Festival goers at Sassoon’s 15 November appearance with Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi (TICKETS)

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