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The Darkening Blue

Whirlwind Recordings WR 4693 [58:04]




  1. Autumn Day

  2. Going Blind

  3. Bluebird

  4. Splash

  5. Area Of Pause

  6. Concession

  7. Hug The Dark

  8. Evening

  9. Lament

  10. Sunflower (For Emelie)

    Andre Canniere - Trumpet

    Brigitte Beraha - Voice (tracks 1-3, 8, 9)

    Tori Freestone - Tenor sax

    Ivo Neame - Piano, keyboards, accordion

    Michael Janisch - Electric bass, double bass

    Ted Poor - Drums

    Although Andre Canniere was born and raised in the USA (in rural Pennsylvania), he has been resident in London for over nine years. Introduced to the joys of jazz by his father and then by his first trumpet teacher, one early influence was Dave Douglas. Canniere attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he met someone who was to be another member of the group on this recording, as well as a personal friend, Ted Poor. Both Canniere and Poor are themselves active in jazz education these days. Canniere is Head of Jazz at the Highgate School and teaches jazz at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London while the Seattle-based drummer is Artist in Residence at the University of Washington School of Music, in the States. Joining them on this album, Canniere's third for Whirlwind, are four other gifted musicians. Pianist Ivo Neame is known for his work with Phronesis and Marius Neset, in particular. Saxophonist Tori Freestone is a leader in her own right, having recorded two recent and critically rated albums with her trio. Brigitte Beraha is an Italian-born singer/songwriter, now London-based. Last but not least, there is yet another American, bassist Michael Janisch. He, too, is involved in jazz education, being Professor of Jazz Bass at Trinity Laban as well as teaching at the Royal Academy of Music. In addition, he is the founder of Whirlwind Recordings and has managed to accumulate a highly impressive CV during his performing career.

    Unlike Canniere's previous discs for Whirlwind, which were purely instrumental, this latest album features four tunes of his set to the words of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by the scholar Stephen Mitchell. Alongside the Rilke material, there is a further vocal track inspired by a poem written by the urban German/American poet Charles Bukowski, plus several instrumental numbers also suggested by Bukowski's work. Because of copyright difficulties, the spirit of Bukowski's 'Bluebird' is here conveyed in words provided by Canniere's sister, Monique. The challenge of interpreting this material falls to Brigitte Beraha who can be described as a jazz singer, pure and simple, or as an 'improvising vocalist', with more than one string to her bow. Either way, Beraha (who teaches jazz voice at Trinity Laban) rises to the occasion.

    The outstanding number, for me, is the aforementioned 'Bluebird', where the overall sound created by the group is excellent. There is a stylish tenor solo from Freestone, plus confident and flawless trumpet from the leader. The vocal element rates as one of the most successful contributions on the disc by Beraha, too. Not far behind, though, is the appealing Sunflower, where trumpet and saxophone are impressively in step and Ivo Neame has some lovely moments on piano. Lament is another winner. Neame plays accordion, as well as a fine piano solo. Ted Poor, as so often on the album, is conspicuous for his vibrant and inventive drumming. Autumn Day, Going Blind, Area Of Pause and Concession all give opportunity to admire the qualities of the band members. For instance, I liked the swing that Beraha brings to her vocal on Going Blind, the moody trumpet, fragile tenor sound and the technique and flair of the drummer on Area Of Pause, or Neame's delicate embellishments on piano in Concession. As always, two or three other tracks are perhaps less effective. Despite a vocal from Beraha, remarkably evocative of Norma Winstone, Evening is one such, in my view. I found Splash and Hug The Dark too, lacking in the cohesion which can be found elsewhere. I suspect that judgment may be due to personal preference, however. Lovers of free jazz may feel more at home with the pieces concerned.

    Where I have no doubts is in commending this ambitious and refreshing album. The task of setting translations of Rilke, especially, to music, in a way that creates a singable (and highly listenable) outcome is a substantial achievement for both Canniere and Beraha. Listeners will warm to a group which delivers where it matters, in a style which will speak to many on the jazz scene.

    James Poore


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