'Folk In A Boat': When the Boat Comes In [5:04]: Brigg Fair/Scarborough
Fair/Greensleeves [3:58]: Molly on the Shore [3:22]
Reflections (Ian Hughes) [5:44]
Phantasia (Andrew Lloyd Webber arr. Geoff Alexander; trio reduction
Paul Bateman) [26:00]
If (Michael Nyman) [4:26]
Elf Dance (Geoff Eales) [7:39]
Song for my Mother (Geoff Eales) [4:53]
Farewell Patagonia (Geoff Eales) [3:48]
Spain (Chick Corea) [6:14]
'Doing Bird'; Birdland [2:28]: Lullaby of Birdland [2:09]: Ornithology
ELF Trio - Dave Lee (horn); Geoff Eales (piano); Andy Findon (flute)
This is a difficult disc to characterise, and I expect that staff
at the few remaining emporia actually devoted to selling CDs will
need to seek guidance: is it classical, crossover, folk, jazz, light,
or a cross-pollinator of some, or indeed all, of the above? Perhaps
it will help to know that Andy Findon and Dave Lee are both members
of Michael Nyman's band and that Geoff Eales is a highly respected
jazz pianist. Together the initials of their surnames spell out the
trio ELF, which formulation is becoming something of a cliché
in powerhouse piano-bass-drum jazz trios; see EST etc. Calling yourself
ELF also suggests a bout of the Hobbits, or something, which I'm sure
is not the intention.
The repertoire takes in traditional material, Lloyd Webber, a Nyman
song, three compositions by Eales - including an Elf Dance, somewhat
inevitably, I suppose - and jazz standards. They're grouped together
amusingly under headings such as 'Folk in a Boat' for the traditional
material and 'Doing Bird' for the trio of avian-related jazz titles.
Clearly these are not sour-faced practitioners.
The motor of the disc is the long sequence of themes from Lloyd Webber's
Phantom of the Opera, here called Phantasia. It's arranged
by Geoff Alexander and heard in this trio reduction by Paul Bateman.
By coincidence I was watching a 'making of' retrospective of the original
work the week before I listened to this 26 minute outing for piano,
horn and flute, so the themes were already lodged. It would have been
nice, though not essential, for each separately tracked cut to have
been identified in the booklet. I enjoyed this ingenious piece of
work, from Eales's tinkling piano introduction [track 9] which is
full of suspense; also the commanding playing of Dave Lee and Findon's
The folk arrangements include a rather spare piano introduction to
When the Boat Comes In over which the flute pirouettes and
the horn mulls. It ends pessimistically, segueing into Brigg Fair
where the counterpoint with Scarborough Fair is adeptly
realised. Molly on the Shore brings out the fife or penny-whistler
manqué in Findon, whose flute playing evokes these instruments
whilst Lee plays the straight man throughout, harmonically speaking.
I enjoyed Ian Hughes's Reflections, the title track, very much.
It comes from a 1996 TV film, and is a worthy salute to the late composer.
Another lovely song is Nyman's If, followed immediately by
that rather funky Elf Dance, albeit one containing a fair share
of wistful elements too. Eales's Song for my Mother was written
for his jazz trio and though it explicitly evokes Horace Silver in
its title, this combination of instruments re-imagines it in a new
and richly textured way. We also hear Chick Corea's Spain and
that bird-related trio of classic jazz themes by Joe Zawinul, George
Shearing and Charlie Parker, all genially arranged; Lullaby of
Birdland is the best of the bunch.
So, whatever genre this disc occupies - and it traverses repertoire
and different forms without embarrassment - the proof is in the playing,
which is typically outstanding. Sympathetic, receptive listeners will
enjoy it - the jazz, the pastoralisms, the show tunes, the traditional
songs, the originals, and indeed the whole ethos of un-pigeonholed
musicians working hard and enjoying themselves.