CD REVIEW: Kit Downes - Obsidian


Kit Downes - Obsidian
(ECM 5782651. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

Kit Downes is one of Britain's more eclectic jazz pianists: part of the electronic band Troyka, equally at home leading his own trio or as a side man, and often crossing genres in collaboration with folk musicians such as fiddler Aidan O'Rourke or classical players like cellist Lucy Railton.

On Obsidian, Downes plays church organ, an instrument on which he has previously recorded in duet with saxophonist Tom Challenger on the CDs Wedding Music and Vyamanikal.

Whilst he is joined by Challenger for one track on Obsidian, Modern Gods, Downes is playing solo on the rest of the album. But such is the nature of the organ that at times it is as if he has an orchestra beneath his fingers: the organ is sufficient.

Made in three churches, each with its own acoustics and, of course, organ, the record is beautifully recorded, full of depth and nuance, and it sounds particularly good through headphones. On the last track, the gentle tune The Gift (based on a composition by Downes' father) it is possible to hear birds singing in the background, adding to the bucolic feeling. For fans and students of the organ, there are details of the stops featured on each organ used.

It is a powerful record: these instruments create a big sound. Although the locations may be ecclesiastic, the music is secular. Downes produces some surprising sounds from the organs, such as other-worldly bleeps and whistles on Rings Of Saturn or cetacean moans on Last Leviathan. At time he makes the organ roar; at other, it is as if it is simmering, waiting to be let loose.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.

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