CD REVIEW: Sean Foran - Frame of Reference

Sean Foran - Frame of Reference
(Jazzhead 222. CD Review by Peter Jones)

Crashing waves. A deserted pebble beach in February. Hail lashing the windows of an empty bed and breakfast hotel. These are the images that come to mind when listening to Australian-born Sean Foran’s Room With A View, a bleak yet emotional 5/4 tune featuring the mournful cello of Ben Davis and warbling tenor saxophone of Julian Arguelles. Towards the end there’s a flurry of drums from Joost Hendrickx, and the track fades with gentle arpeggios from pianist Foran. On Une Fille, guitarist Stuart McCallum (in whose band Foran also plays) solos with his trademark chromatic runs, while Arguelles switches to soprano.

Sean Foran wrote the tunes with these players in mind, which gives the album its strongly individual flavour, within an overall style that is very much à la mode (no swing, lots of complex time signatures). Even after five or six plays, I can’t say the melodies were lodged in my head. But that isn’t to say the album lacks melody – on the contrary, the soloists don’t go ‘out’ of the scales suggested by the chord sequences. But these are musical ‘pieces’ rather than songs, and they evoke a certain consistency of mood. That mood is often sombre and reflective, occasionally neurotic. I particularly like the murmuring Dare To Dream, its rhythmic underpinning shared by Foran and McCallum as Hendrickx adds colour with beaters and Davis carves out another heartfelt cello solo. With no track running shorter than six minutes, there’s time to establish an evolving structure for each tune.

A pleasing lightness of touch is maintained throughout. The absence of a bass player is compensated for by strong left-hand playing from Foran and bass string work from McCallum. Foran’s playing style reminds me of Jamil Sheriff and Dominic Marshall, all three of them closely associated with Leeds College of Music, which has produced so many fine players in recent years.

Frame of Reference is released on 2nd September. Tour dates in October:

3rd – Pizza Express, London
4th – Watermill, Dorking
5th – Lakeside, Nottingham
6th – Future Inns, Bristol
7th – Turner Sims, Southampton
9th – Newcastle Jazz Steps (Foran/McCallum duo only)
11th – Capstone Theatre, Liverpool.

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