(Fuzzy Moon Records FUZ008. CD review by Adrian Pallant)
Conveying evident themes of both the wonderment and fragility of life’s journey, Geoff Eales’ elegant new quintet release brings together respected musicians from the UK jazz scene.
Eales’ full career has seen him working as a member of the BBC Radio Big Band; and, for many years, as studio pianist, arranger and composer alongside such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Henry Mancini, Shirley Bassey and Jose Carreras; and his subsequent jazz focus has produced no fewer than twelve album recordings, increasingly establishing his own original approach to composition and improvisation.
New album Transience communicates warmth, depth and sincerity, accentuated by Brigitte Beraha’s singularly lithe, adventurous vocal delivery, with the line-up completed by Noel Langley (trumpet, flugelhorn), Chris Laurence (double bass) and Martin France (drums). The sense of loss described by Geoff Eales at the passing away of his mother (just a few months prior to this recording), coupled with the jazz world’s mourning of Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor, has clearly contributed to the artistic aura of these twelve pieces – yet the performances here breathe emotional sensitivity and sparkle rather than maudlinness.
This classic, lyrical jazz feel – especially with its prominence of trumpet/flugel and voice – frequently echoes the timbres of Norma Winstone and Kenny Wheeler (an especially heartwarming correlation). But Eales’ compositional breadth and clear, pianistic direction offer his personnel the scope to open up their own creativity across this expressive landscape; and his storytelling, through words and music, becomes a particularly strong element. Sleep Eternal, for example, wistfully reflects on old age and childhood, Beraha’s soft, extended lines elegantly waltzing to the pianist’s delicacy and Noel Langley’s haunting responses. Piano trio Life Dance gyrates energetically to an Eastern folkiness, revealing the sharpness of Eales’ dexterity; and Atonement's weighty themes of reconciliation are elucidated through pervading vocal and instrumental tenderness, Beraha’s contribution most definitely integral to the quintet.
Impressions of pilgrimage and reflection are never far away, and sprightly We All Must Change provides Beraha with the opportunity to soar (though its conciliatory lyrics perhaps veer towards preachy). Quirk of Fate swings and trips to Eales’ chordal blues perkiness, possessing attractive Dave Brubeckian vigour; and the sweet, vocal reassurance of Gently into the Night is uplifted by its steady instrumental ebb and flow, Langley’s closing trumpet ascension particularly effective. Elsewhere, there are fascinating pictorialisations and techniques, such as Eales’ and Beraha’s domino effect in beautifully constructed duo showcase If Only…, and Nocturne – modelled on Chopin, at the request of the pianist’s late mother – movingly references the hymn What A Friend We Have In Jesus, sounded emphatically by Langley’s crystalline trumpet.
At almost ten minutes’ duration, Remembering Kenny joyfully captures the spirit of the much-missed trumpeter’s output, with Eales recalling his memorial service’s closing blessing, “the trumpet shall sound…”. Here, as throughout this recording, Chris Laurence and Martin France offer rhythmic stability and panache, whilst Noel Langley’s exuberant, dual-tracked improvisations (in fact, quite a duel) imaginatively and affectingly suggest an ongoing musical dialogue between heaven and earth! And, suitably following, Celestial Vision's open-skied, countryfied piano melodies draw these colourful searchings to a close with assured repose.
Transience certainly wears its heart on its sleeve, doing so with attractive musicality and candid devotion.
Adrian Pallant is a proofreader, musician and jazz writer who also reviews at his own site ap-reviews.com
LINK: Geoff Eales interview about Transience with Peter Bacon