I have appreciated all Geoff Eales' albums, but I have
enjoyed his playing most in a trio format - where he is stimulated
by fellow musicians. And Geoff is in a trio here, although it is his
"New Trio" - not what he now calls his "Standards Trio"
(which is the one I liked most, with Roy Babbington on bass and Mark
Fletcher at the drums). In fact Geoff says in the sleeve-notes to
this new album that he "wanted to get away from the standards
trio idea". So this album consists of eight original compositions
by Geoff Eales, with new boys Chris Laurence and Martin France in
It is certainly very different from the trio with which
Eales played standards with such dynamism and excitement - and which
I so enjoyed when they last recorded together (http://www.musicweb-international.com/jazz/2008/Eales_J2C0701.htm).
This new CD is closer to his 2007 solo album Epicentre, which
consisted mainly of originals. He deserves praise for striking out
in a new direction, although it is only partly successful. The trouble
is that Geoff Eales is not such a memorable composer as the people
who wrote the great jazz standards. So the tunes do not always stick
in the mind but sometimes seem as if they are wandering in search
of a melody. Even after several hearings, I can hardly hum any of
You might compare this album with the recordings of
Brad Mehldau or Esbjorn Svensson, and it is symptomatic that Lachrymosa
is Eales' tribute to the late-lamented Svensson. In truth, it tends
to meander much like some of Svensson's trio performances. Awakening
starts with rumblings from the trio which sound more like free improvisation
than the introduction to a tune. Eventually a melody emerges but it
would feel like a long wait except for Chris Laurence's dexterity
on the double bass - plucked and bowed.
There's no doubt that all three players are first-class
musicians, with impeccable techniques: it's just that the material
they work with often tends to lack focus. This doesn't apply to Song
for my Mother, where the manifest sincerity of the emotion enables
Eales to write a piece which immediately touches the listener. But
the title-track (Magister Ludi = Master of the Game) is ponderous
rather than unforgettable.
These musicians could never play badly - I just wish
that they made more melodic music. Geoff Eales' years of experience
must have taught him the importance of rhythm, harmony and melody,
but the last of these three is regrettably in short supply.