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Frank Harrison and Brigitte Beraha - The Way Home Rating: 3-5 out of 5 An intimate, thoughtful, well crafted and often very beautiful album.

Frank Harrison and Brigitte Beraha

“The Way Home”

(Linus Records LRCD04)

Pianist Frank Harrison and vocalist Brigitte Beraha are both regular presences on the Jazzmann web pages.

Harrison is arguably best known to jazz audiences as a member of multi-instrumentalist Gilad Atzmon’s quartet the Orient House Ensemble but he has also enjoyed a fruitful solo career releasing a series of accomplished piano trio albums with various rhythm section partners, the recordings including “First Light” (2006), “Sideways” (2012) and “Lunaris” (2014), all of which are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann. The semi-official “Live At The Verdict” (2015), recorded at the celebrated Brighton venue features his current trio of bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Enzo Zirilli.

Others with whom Harrison has recorded include guitarist Louis Stewart, saxophonists Alan Barnes and Tommaso Starace, drummer Asaf Sirkis and vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Sarah Gillespie plus the ensembles Quadro (with vocalist Georgia Mancio and bassist Andy Cleyndert) and Talinka, led by singer and songwriter Tali Atzmon.

As a sideman he was worked with guitarist John Etheridge and with a host of famous British saxophonists including Peter King, Julian Arguelles, Julian Siegel, Don Weller and Iain Ballamy plus the Pole, Maciej Sikala.

Beraha first came to my attention with the release of her second solo album “Flying Dreams” back in 2008. Strongly influenced by the great Norma Winstone Beraha has blossomed into one of the UK’s most adventurous and accomplished vocalists who has performed as a very welcome guest on recordings by pianists Ivo Neame and Geoff Eales, trumpeters Andy Hague and Reuben Fowler and saxophonist Ed Jones among others. She is a key member of the co-operative ensembles Babelfish and Solstice and of Riff Raff, the sextet led by bassist and composer Dave Manington. She has also worked with the trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed.

A particularly prolific collaboration has been with the pianist and composer John Turville, the pair releasing the duo album “Red Skies” in 2013 and also touring extensively. “Red Skies” also included a guest appearance on tenor sax by the late, great Bobby Wellins while the duo’s live performances have sometimes featured contributions from a much younger saxophonist, the hugely versatile George Crowley.

2018 has seen Beraha guesting on “Criss Cross”, the recently issued duo album from pianist Alcyona Mick and saxophonist Tori Freestone. She also appeared at Cheltenham Jazz Festival as part of the all female ensemble Interchange, founded and co-ordinated by saxophonist, composer and educator Issie Barratt.

Beraha has been an important member of the Loop and E17 musicians’ collectives and is generally a busy and creative presence on the UK jazz scene. As well as being an enterprising and versatile vocalist Beraha is also an accomplished song writer and lyricist who has had a considerable creative input to the recordings she has been involved with, often adding her lyrics to the music of others.

It’s tempting to regard this collaboration between Beraha and Harrison as the natural successor to her partnership with Turville. Several of the pieces on “The Way Home” are jointly written by Harrison and Beraha alongside a number of sole credits. The only genuine ‘outside’ item is a solo piano interpretation of “You Can’t Go Home Again”, written by the American composer and arranger Don Sebesky.

The packaging for “The Way Home” suggests that the album might be a conceptual affair but instead it appears to be just a collection of songs. It commences with “The Man Who Cycled From India For Love”, a co-write with music by Harrison and words by Beraha. The lyrics tell the true story of a man who cycled 7,000km from India to Europe in 1977 to be with a Swedish tourist he’d fallen in love with.  The couple in question are now married and settled in Sweden with their son. The family in question heard the song on Youtube and visited the UK to attend the album launch at Kings Place, London. It’s a heart warming story.
The performance is eerily beautiful with Beraha’s yearning yet flexible vocals complemented by Harrison’s crystalline piano. Beraha’s lyrics are possessed on a genuine poetic quality but her wordless vocalising is equally effective as is Harrison’s judicious use of synthesisers and samplers to create splashes of additional colour and texture.

“Falling”, another joint collaboration, features Beraha at her most Winstone like as she delivers a lyric that is again genuinely poetic thanks to its economy and simplicity, these qualities helping to make it also both beautiful and evocative. Harrison’s piano is again at the heart of the arrangement but once again he deploys tasteful electronica to add depth and colour and there’s also a subtle, low key contribution from guest percussionist Enzo Zirilli.

“For Fred (and Robert)” is credited to Harrison alone and features Beraha’s soaring wordless vocals floating above the pianist’s circling motifs and more expansive soloing. I’m not sure who the dedicatees are, but would hazard a guess at the acclaimed American jazz pianist Fred Hersch.

“The Broken Lantern” is another collaboration between Harrison and Beraha. Again, the beauty of Harrison’s melody and the lyricism of his playing is enhanced by Beraha’s words and singing. Her lyrics evoke an image of a cracked, dusty lamp “Who will see only cracks, And miss the most perfect light, Shining through the broken glass” she asks. It’s an invitation to “Wisely choose how to stare at the world”.

The product of a cosmopolitan upbringing Beraha has long been admired for her ability to sing, and write, convincingly in other languages. The joint composition “Magica Nostra” features her effective singing of her own Italian lyrics. There’s also some soaring wordless vocalising plus a flowingly lyrical piano solo from Harrison.

An arrangement of Don Sebesky’s “You Can’t Go Home Again” appeared on Harrison’s 2006 début album “First Light”, which featured bassist Aidan O’Donnell and drummer Stephen Keogh. Here Harrison revisits the piece as a solo piano performance with his unhurried, lyrical playing again bringing out the full beauty of Sebesky’s tune, itself based on a theme by Rachmaninov.

Solely credited to Beraha “Day By Day”, with its confessional lyrics, has something of the feel of a Joni Mitchell song about it, and despite the lovelorn despair expressed in the first two verses the song concludes on a more positive note. Life goes on.

Harrison’s title track has no lyrics but is possessed of a gorgeous melody that provides the inspiration for the delightful interplay between the composer’s piano and Beraha’s non verbal vocals. A soupçon of electronica enhances an arrangement that draws on jazz and minimalist influences.

“De Retour” presents another example of Beraha’s multi-lingual skills and is a setting, with lyrics in French, of a work by the poet Maud Hart. Beraha’s arrangement incorporates spooky, unsettling electronica from Harrison allied to the vocalist’s semi-sung, semi-spoken rendition of the poet’s words.  As the tune gathers momentum and takes a more optimistic turn we are also treated to more of Beraha’s joyous wordless vocalising. Apparently Hart made the trip from Alsace to attend the duo’s London launch gig.

The album concludes with Harrison’s “Two Tone Tune”, another piano and wordless vocal set piece that some have compared to the Azimuth trio featuring vocalist Norma Winstone, pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler that recorded a series of albums for ECM in the 1970s and 1980s. Here the third musical voice comes from guest harmonica player Patrick Bettison (he’s also a highly accomplished electric bass specialist). The piece is comparatively brief and economical with Bettison shadowing Beraha’s vocal lines rather than performing as a soloist, his role is essentially textural.

“The Way Home” is an intimate, thoughtful, well crafted and often very beautiful album. Its ‘chamber jazz’ aesthetic and slightly rarefied atmosphere won’t appeal to all listeners but nevertheless it’s an album that many will enjoy and it has certainly been well received by my fellow jazz commentators.

It’s a recording that will enhance Beraha’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading vocalists and lyricists and confirms Harrison’s status as one our top pianists. His subtle use of electronica is effective and does nothing to detract from the superior quality of his piano playing. Meanwhile the production and engineering (by Dougal Lott and Andrew Tulloch) ensures that both performers are heard at their best.

The material on “The Way Home” was recorded two years ago and reports from recent live gigs suggest that the duo are now incorporating a raft of new material into their live performances. Frank Harrison and Brigitte Beraha can be seen and heard at the Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire on Friday 20th July 2018.
See http://www.hermonchapel.com or http://www.frankharrison.net

The Way Home

Frank Harrison and Brigitte Beraha

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

The Way Home

An intimate, thoughtful, well crafted and often very beautiful album.

Frank Harrison and Brigitte Beraha

“The Way Home”

(Linus Records LRCD04)

Pianist Frank Harrison and vocalist Brigitte Beraha are both regular presences on the Jazzmann web pages.

Harrison is arguably best known to jazz audiences as a member of multi-instrumentalist Gilad Atzmon’s quartet the Orient House Ensemble but he has also enjoyed a fruitful solo career releasing a series of accomplished piano trio albums with various rhythm section partners, the recordings including “First Light” (2006), “Sideways” (2012) and “Lunaris” (2014), all of which are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann. The semi-official “Live At The Verdict” (2015), recorded at the celebrated Brighton venue features his current trio of bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Enzo Zirilli.

Others with whom Harrison has recorded include guitarist Louis Stewart, saxophonists Alan Barnes and Tommaso Starace, drummer Asaf Sirkis and vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Sarah Gillespie plus the ensembles Quadro (with vocalist Georgia Mancio and bassist Andy Cleyndert) and Talinka, led by singer and songwriter Tali Atzmon.

As a sideman he was worked with guitarist John Etheridge and with a host of famous British saxophonists including Peter King, Julian Arguelles, Julian Siegel, Don Weller and Iain Ballamy plus the Pole, Maciej Sikala.

Beraha first came to my attention with the release of her second solo album “Flying Dreams” back in 2008. Strongly influenced by the great Norma Winstone Beraha has blossomed into one of the UK’s most adventurous and accomplished vocalists who has performed as a very welcome guest on recordings by pianists Ivo Neame and Geoff Eales, trumpeters Andy Hague and Reuben Fowler and saxophonist Ed Jones among others. She is a key member of the co-operative ensembles Babelfish and Solstice and of Riff Raff, the sextet led by bassist and composer Dave Manington. She has also worked with the trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed.

A particularly prolific collaboration has been with the pianist and composer John Turville, the pair releasing the duo album “Red Skies” in 2013 and also touring extensively. “Red Skies” also included a guest appearance on tenor sax by the late, great Bobby Wellins while the duo’s live performances have sometimes featured contributions from a much younger saxophonist, the hugely versatile George Crowley.

2018 has seen Beraha guesting on “Criss Cross”, the recently issued duo album from pianist Alcyona Mick and saxophonist Tori Freestone. She also appeared at Cheltenham Jazz Festival as part of the all female ensemble Interchange, founded and co-ordinated by saxophonist, composer and educator Issie Barratt.

Beraha has been an important member of the Loop and E17 musicians’ collectives and is generally a busy and creative presence on the UK jazz scene. As well as being an enterprising and versatile vocalist Beraha is also an accomplished song writer and lyricist who has had a considerable creative input to the recordings she has been involved with, often adding her lyrics to the music of others.

It’s tempting to regard this collaboration between Beraha and Harrison as the natural successor to her partnership with Turville. Several of the pieces on “The Way Home” are jointly written by Harrison and Beraha alongside a number of sole credits. The only genuine ‘outside’ item is a solo piano interpretation of “You Can’t Go Home Again”, written by the American composer and arranger Don Sebesky.

The packaging for “The Way Home” suggests that the album might be a conceptual affair but instead it appears to be just a collection of songs. It commences with “The Man Who Cycled From India For Love”, a co-write with music by Harrison and words by Beraha. The lyrics tell the true story of a man who cycled 7,000km from India to Europe in 1977 to be with a Swedish tourist he’d fallen in love with.  The couple in question are now married and settled in Sweden with their son. The family in question heard the song on Youtube and visited the UK to attend the album launch at Kings Place, London. It’s a heart warming story.
The performance is eerily beautiful with Beraha’s yearning yet flexible vocals complemented by Harrison’s crystalline piano. Beraha’s lyrics are possessed on a genuine poetic quality but her wordless vocalising is equally effective as is Harrison’s judicious use of synthesisers and samplers to create splashes of additional colour and texture.

“Falling”, another joint collaboration, features Beraha at her most Winstone like as she delivers a lyric that is again genuinely poetic thanks to its economy and simplicity, these qualities helping to make it also both beautiful and evocative. Harrison’s piano is again at the heart of the arrangement but once again he deploys tasteful electronica to add depth and colour and there’s also a subtle, low key contribution from guest percussionist Enzo Zirilli.

“For Fred (and Robert)” is credited to Harrison alone and features Beraha’s soaring wordless vocals floating above the pianist’s circling motifs and more expansive soloing. I’m not sure who the dedicatees are, but would hazard a guess at the acclaimed American jazz pianist Fred Hersch.

“The Broken Lantern” is another collaboration between Harrison and Beraha. Again, the beauty of Harrison’s melody and the lyricism of his playing is enhanced by Beraha’s words and singing. Her lyrics evoke an image of a cracked, dusty lamp “Who will see only cracks, And miss the most perfect light, Shining through the broken glass” she asks. It’s an invitation to “Wisely choose how to stare at the world”.

The product of a cosmopolitan upbringing Beraha has long been admired for her ability to sing, and write, convincingly in other languages. The joint composition “Magica Nostra” features her effective singing of her own Italian lyrics. There’s also some soaring wordless vocalising plus a flowingly lyrical piano solo from Harrison.

An arrangement of Don Sebesky’s “You Can’t Go Home Again” appeared on Harrison’s 2006 début album “First Light”, which featured bassist Aidan O’Donnell and drummer Stephen Keogh. Here Harrison revisits the piece as a solo piano performance with his unhurried, lyrical playing again bringing out the full beauty of Sebesky’s tune, itself based on a theme by Rachmaninov.

Solely credited to Beraha “Day By Day”, with its confessional lyrics, has something of the feel of a Joni Mitchell song about it, and despite the lovelorn despair expressed in the first two verses the song concludes on a more positive note. Life goes on.

Harrison’s title track has no lyrics but is possessed of a gorgeous melody that provides the inspiration for the delightful interplay between the composer’s piano and Beraha’s non verbal vocals. A soupçon of electronica enhances an arrangement that draws on jazz and minimalist influences.

“De Retour” presents another example of Beraha’s multi-lingual skills and is a setting, with lyrics in French, of a work by the poet Maud Hart. Beraha’s arrangement incorporates spooky, unsettling electronica from Harrison allied to the vocalist’s semi-sung, semi-spoken rendition of the poet’s words.  As the tune gathers momentum and takes a more optimistic turn we are also treated to more of Beraha’s joyous wordless vocalising. Apparently Hart made the trip from Alsace to attend the duo’s London launch gig.

The album concludes with Harrison’s “Two Tone Tune”, another piano and wordless vocal set piece that some have compared to the Azimuth trio featuring vocalist Norma Winstone, pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler that recorded a series of albums for ECM in the 1970s and 1980s. Here the third musical voice comes from guest harmonica player Patrick Bettison (he’s also a highly accomplished electric bass specialist). The piece is comparatively brief and economical with Bettison shadowing Beraha’s vocal lines rather than performing as a soloist, his role is essentially textural.

“The Way Home” is an intimate, thoughtful, well crafted and often very beautiful album. Its ‘chamber jazz’ aesthetic and slightly rarefied atmosphere won’t appeal to all listeners but nevertheless it’s an album that many will enjoy and it has certainly been well received by my fellow jazz commentators.

It’s a recording that will enhance Beraha’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading vocalists and lyricists and confirms Harrison’s status as one our top pianists. His subtle use of electronica is effective and does nothing to detract from the superior quality of his piano playing. Meanwhile the production and engineering (by Dougal Lott and Andrew Tulloch) ensures that both performers are heard at their best.

The material on “The Way Home” was recorded two years ago and reports from recent live gigs suggest that the duo are now incorporating a raft of new material into their live performances. Frank Harrison and Brigitte Beraha can be seen and heard at the Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry, Shropshire on Friday 20th July 2018.
See http://www.hermonchapel.com or http://www.frankharrison.net


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