CD REVIEW: Andrew Woodhead - Pocket Piano Improvisations



Andrew Woodhead - Pocket Piano Improvisations
(Available on Bandcamp, CD review by Peter Bacon)


Birmingham-based pianist Andrew Woodhead is a hugely versatile player and composer. A winner of the Dankworth Prize for his writing, he is a particularly empathetic accompanist for singers - as his trio with Holly Thomas and Lluis Mather shows - and is an eloquent and thoughtful improviser in various bands. He is also the driving force behind a session of improv and experimental music called Fizzle, which happens at The Lamp Tavern in Digbeth, Birmingham, every second Tuesday evening.

This, his first solo recording, has most in common with his Anglo-Scandinavian trio ELDA (not to be confused with Emilia Mårtensson's ELDA Trio), but is even more abstract. Armed with a tiny keyboard and a few twiddly knobs (technical term), he explores improvised sounds with, it seems, often as little reference to musical conventions of key, chord progression, melody and harmony as he can manage.

Sure, there is a point in Fuzz where, having played with two notes overlaid with distortion, and then moved into long-held tones of quickly oscillating noise, some snatches of melody creep in but it’s only brief. Phase has a percussive quality and builds into a complex groove pattern before slowing to a crawl. But it’s when it feels like there is not much happening that the album is often most effective. Day Jar explores a few notes and keeps the sound fairly stable, turning into a kind of revelation of a thought process and a gradual development of an emotional state, adding increasing melodic elements as it progresses. At Qt stretches tones and underlying oscillations out to meditational effect, while Snowing has distinct church organ references.

An adventurous and intriguing set of music from a quietly talented musician.

Pocket Piano Improvisations is available via Andrew’s website which is here.

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