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Metamorphic - The Rock Between Rating: 3-5 out of 5 A fascinating record that shows considerable promise.

Metamorphic

“The Rock Between”

(F-ire Presents)

This ambitious and highly personal release on the F-ire Presents imprint comes from Metamorphic, a young group led by Leeds based pianist and composer Laura Cole. However the core of the group are from London and the personnel includes saxophonists Chris Williams (alto) and John Martin (tenor/soprano), bassist Paul Sandy and drummer Tom Greenhalgh plus vocalist Kerry Andrew. The title track also includes a guest appearance from Shabaka Hutchings on bass clarinet.

The material comprises mainly of original songs and compositions from Cole but also includes imaginative arrangements of pieces by jazz composers Thelonious Monk, Kenny Wheeler, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and Kenny Barron. These are sometimes segued together with Cole’s own tunes to form new hybrid pieces. There’s also a Cole arranged version of Bjork’s “Hyperballad.”

Cole alternates complex instrumental pieces with highly personal songs, the latter informed by her battles with RSI and depression. These are interpreted with considerable feeling and sensitivity by singer Kerry Andrew. Overall it’s perhaps broadly similar to the kind of thing Michael Garrick used to produce in collaboration with singer Norma Winstone back in the 60’s and 70’s. The presence of a piece by Kenny Wheeler, a long term associate of Garrick and Winstone, would appear to support this hypothesis. A more contemporary parallel would perhaps be Fringe Magnetic, a band who share a broadly similar habit of alternating instrumentals with vocal set pieces

The album begins with “Light Up Yourself”,  a powerful opener that grows out of finger snaps and wordless vocals to encompass complex rhythmic patterns and the first of several searing solos from Led Bib saxophonist Chris Williams. The sense of the lyrics is rather lost in the maelstrom of the music and on this piece at least it’s perhaps best to enjoy Andrew’s voice as an additional instrument. 

“Two Solitudes”, an intriguing slice of post bop contrasts Williams’ intensity with the more lyrical approach of young tenorist Martin, a musician who is set to release his own quartet album “Dawning” on the F-ire Presents label shortly. Not that Martin’s playing lacks fire, he too eventually builds up a fair head of steam and the two saxophonists act as good foils for each other. Andrew is a marginal presence here and the arrangement is paced by Cole’s piano and the flexible and intelligent work of the rhythm section.

“Bylullaby” is floaty, gentle and impressionistic with Cole’s piano shadowed by Andrew’s gently droning vocal. The singer is also credited with “loops” and is thus presumably responsible for the sonic backwash, like rainwater or static, that permeates the background of the track. Martin’s well constructed tenor solo crowns the piece bringing a welcome touch of colour and humanity to the proceedings.

The title track features Cole’s confessional lyrics, movingly sung by Andrew to the rich sound of intertwined reeds including Hutchings’ bass clarinet. The lengthy instrumental section features Cole soloing on Rhodes alongside the horns as they probe deeply with Hutchings particularly impressive. Eric Dolphy would have been proud of him.

Cole’s thoughtful arrangement of Monk’s “Ruby My Dear” teams her piano plus sympathetic bass and drums with Martin’s soprano in a delightful performance of this much covered piece.

“Kind Folk Tell Me A Bedtime Story” is segue of themes by Cole, Kenny Wheeler and Herbie Hancock. It’s a seamless meld with Cole featuring extensively on Rhodes alongside the lively counterpoint of the horns. The piece also features bassist Paul Sandy, a player usually heard in rootsier contexts, such as with the band Hey Negrita!

“The Cloak” begins as another of Cole’s confessional songs featuring the pure but soulful voice of Kerry Andrew. The lyrics seem to cast Cole/Andrew as a kind of modern day Ophelia floating down the Thames. So far, so poetry and jazz but the music becomes increasingly tumultuous, the rhythms more jagged and Williams embarks on another blazing solo above the increasingly odd meter rhythms. The sense of the lyrics rather gets lost as the band stretch out but this is nevertheless dramatic stuff with a strong narrative arc. My copy is a “white label” with the minimum of information, I’d like to think that the complete album package carries the lyrics as Cole’s words are a vital component of this fascinating music.

The only other “jazz” version I’ve heard of Bjork’s “Hyperballad” is as an instrumental by the Polish trio led by pianist Marcin Wasilewski on the ECM album “Simple Acoustic Trio” (2004). Metamorphic’s version is closer to the spirit of the original with Andrew’s voice sounding almost folk like at times. They certainly capture something of Bjork’s other worldliness courtesy of gently trilling Rhodes (almost like a celeste), breathy vocal loops and delicate, minimalistic drumming. It later develops to embrace a more extensive ensemble sound but overall it’s rather lovely.

The song “Out Inside” also begins quietly, gently undulating around a set of repeated vocal phrases. Later there’s a lengthy instrumental section with the twin horns duelling above some frankly perplexing rhythms on what, for me, is probably the most challenging track on the album.

The closing segue which takes in Cole’s song “Two Feet Tall” fused to Miles Davis’ “Nardis” and Kenny Barron’s “Sunshower” has attracted considerable critical acclaim. The song comes first, moving from a spoken introduction through more conventionally sung sections, some of them conspicuously tricky, and thence in to a spiky, rhythmically complex version of “Nardis” and a even more complex (in 19/8, so I’m told) “Sunshower”. All this allows for some powerful soloing from Williams, Martin and Cole with Andrew’s wordless vocal sometimes augmenting the melody lines. Sandy and Greenhalgh respond to the mind bogglingly complex arrangements with intelligence and aplomb and are very much the unsung heroes of the whole album.

“The Rock Between” is a laudable début from Laura Cole and Metamorphic and contains some excellent playing from a highly talented young band. Their mix of “jazz, folk and groove”, as Cole describes it, covers a wide range of stylistic bases and the album is impressive in it’s scope. The highly personal nature of the writing renders things a little claustrophobic at times and there’s also the sense that Cole is trying to shoehorn all her ideas into a single recording and is maybe trying to do too much all at once.

Taken overall though it’s still a fascinating record that shows considerable promise. It would be intriguing to see the band tackle these complex compositions and arrangements live.

       

 

The Rock Between

Metamorphic

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

The Rock Between

A fascinating record that shows considerable promise.

Metamorphic

“The Rock Between”

(F-ire Presents)

This ambitious and highly personal release on the F-ire Presents imprint comes from Metamorphic, a young group led by Leeds based pianist and composer Laura Cole. However the core of the group are from London and the personnel includes saxophonists Chris Williams (alto) and John Martin (tenor/soprano), bassist Paul Sandy and drummer Tom Greenhalgh plus vocalist Kerry Andrew. The title track also includes a guest appearance from Shabaka Hutchings on bass clarinet.

The material comprises mainly of original songs and compositions from Cole but also includes imaginative arrangements of pieces by jazz composers Thelonious Monk, Kenny Wheeler, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and Kenny Barron. These are sometimes segued together with Cole’s own tunes to form new hybrid pieces. There’s also a Cole arranged version of Bjork’s “Hyperballad.”

Cole alternates complex instrumental pieces with highly personal songs, the latter informed by her battles with RSI and depression. These are interpreted with considerable feeling and sensitivity by singer Kerry Andrew. Overall it’s perhaps broadly similar to the kind of thing Michael Garrick used to produce in collaboration with singer Norma Winstone back in the 60’s and 70’s. The presence of a piece by Kenny Wheeler, a long term associate of Garrick and Winstone, would appear to support this hypothesis. A more contemporary parallel would perhaps be Fringe Magnetic, a band who share a broadly similar habit of alternating instrumentals with vocal set pieces

The album begins with “Light Up Yourself”,  a powerful opener that grows out of finger snaps and wordless vocals to encompass complex rhythmic patterns and the first of several searing solos from Led Bib saxophonist Chris Williams. The sense of the lyrics is rather lost in the maelstrom of the music and on this piece at least it’s perhaps best to enjoy Andrew’s voice as an additional instrument. 

“Two Solitudes”, an intriguing slice of post bop contrasts Williams’ intensity with the more lyrical approach of young tenorist Martin, a musician who is set to release his own quartet album “Dawning” on the F-ire Presents label shortly. Not that Martin’s playing lacks fire, he too eventually builds up a fair head of steam and the two saxophonists act as good foils for each other. Andrew is a marginal presence here and the arrangement is paced by Cole’s piano and the flexible and intelligent work of the rhythm section.

“Bylullaby” is floaty, gentle and impressionistic with Cole’s piano shadowed by Andrew’s gently droning vocal. The singer is also credited with “loops” and is thus presumably responsible for the sonic backwash, like rainwater or static, that permeates the background of the track. Martin’s well constructed tenor solo crowns the piece bringing a welcome touch of colour and humanity to the proceedings.

The title track features Cole’s confessional lyrics, movingly sung by Andrew to the rich sound of intertwined reeds including Hutchings’ bass clarinet. The lengthy instrumental section features Cole soloing on Rhodes alongside the horns as they probe deeply with Hutchings particularly impressive. Eric Dolphy would have been proud of him.

Cole’s thoughtful arrangement of Monk’s “Ruby My Dear” teams her piano plus sympathetic bass and drums with Martin’s soprano in a delightful performance of this much covered piece.

“Kind Folk Tell Me A Bedtime Story” is segue of themes by Cole, Kenny Wheeler and Herbie Hancock. It’s a seamless meld with Cole featuring extensively on Rhodes alongside the lively counterpoint of the horns. The piece also features bassist Paul Sandy, a player usually heard in rootsier contexts, such as with the band Hey Negrita!

“The Cloak” begins as another of Cole’s confessional songs featuring the pure but soulful voice of Kerry Andrew. The lyrics seem to cast Cole/Andrew as a kind of modern day Ophelia floating down the Thames. So far, so poetry and jazz but the music becomes increasingly tumultuous, the rhythms more jagged and Williams embarks on another blazing solo above the increasingly odd meter rhythms. The sense of the lyrics rather gets lost as the band stretch out but this is nevertheless dramatic stuff with a strong narrative arc. My copy is a “white label” with the minimum of information, I’d like to think that the complete album package carries the lyrics as Cole’s words are a vital component of this fascinating music.

The only other “jazz” version I’ve heard of Bjork’s “Hyperballad” is as an instrumental by the Polish trio led by pianist Marcin Wasilewski on the ECM album “Simple Acoustic Trio” (2004). Metamorphic’s version is closer to the spirit of the original with Andrew’s voice sounding almost folk like at times. They certainly capture something of Bjork’s other worldliness courtesy of gently trilling Rhodes (almost like a celeste), breathy vocal loops and delicate, minimalistic drumming. It later develops to embrace a more extensive ensemble sound but overall it’s rather lovely.

The song “Out Inside” also begins quietly, gently undulating around a set of repeated vocal phrases. Later there’s a lengthy instrumental section with the twin horns duelling above some frankly perplexing rhythms on what, for me, is probably the most challenging track on the album.

The closing segue which takes in Cole’s song “Two Feet Tall” fused to Miles Davis’ “Nardis” and Kenny Barron’s “Sunshower” has attracted considerable critical acclaim. The song comes first, moving from a spoken introduction through more conventionally sung sections, some of them conspicuously tricky, and thence in to a spiky, rhythmically complex version of “Nardis” and a even more complex (in 19/8, so I’m told) “Sunshower”. All this allows for some powerful soloing from Williams, Martin and Cole with Andrew’s wordless vocal sometimes augmenting the melody lines. Sandy and Greenhalgh respond to the mind bogglingly complex arrangements with intelligence and aplomb and are very much the unsung heroes of the whole album.

“The Rock Between” is a laudable début from Laura Cole and Metamorphic and contains some excellent playing from a highly talented young band. Their mix of “jazz, folk and groove”, as Cole describes it, covers a wide range of stylistic bases and the album is impressive in it’s scope. The highly personal nature of the writing renders things a little claustrophobic at times and there’s also the sense that Cole is trying to shoehorn all her ideas into a single recording and is maybe trying to do too much all at once.

Taken overall though it’s still a fascinating record that shows considerable promise. It would be intriguing to see the band tackle these complex compositions and arrangements live.

       

 


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