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John Bailey - Oneiric Sounds Rating: 3-5 out of 5 "Oneiric Sounds" has clearly been a labour of love for Bailey. The compositions are consistently interesting and include many influences ranging from jazz to folk to contemporary classical music.

John Bailey

“Oneiric Sounds”

(Outhouse Records OUTHOUSE 03)

John Bailey is a Lancashire based guitarist and composer who holds an MA in Jazz Performance from the Leeds College of Music. Born in Huddersfield Bailey first played in heavy metal bands before turning to jazz and classical music.  He performs regularly in the North of England with his trio and quartet and has also toured with the operatic tenor Russell Watson and worked with Sting on the latter’s “The Last Ship” project.

“Oneiric Sounds” is Bailey’s third album as a leader and his most ambitious work to date. It follows two earlier small group recordings, “Black Ship, Bright Sea” and “Heart Horizons”.

Now, I have to admit that before this album dropped through my letterbox I’d never heard of John Bailey, but anybody who can persuade such jazz heavyweights as British saxophonist Julian Arguelles and Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen to appear on his album is definitely worth paying attention to.

Bailey’s two star guests don’t actually play together. Each appears on a separate suite of music recorded at different sessions. The movements of each suite are then punctuated by four improvised passages featuring Bailey, Arguelles and others under catch all title “Oneiric”.

Besides Bailey, Andersen and Arguelles the recording also features the talents of Richard Iles (flugelhorn, trumpet), Tim France (tenor sax), Garry Jackson (electric & acoustic bass), Simon Chalk (violin), Mark Chivers (viola) and Nick Stringfellow (cello). Drumming duties are shared by Richard Kass, who performed on the Andersen session, and Eryl Roberts who performed alongside Arguelles.

Bailey says of the album title;
“The word ‘Oneiric’ means ‘dream like. When I was conceiving the album I had no really strong angle from which I was working. The more I thought about the music the more I slipped into a dream world where meanings, intent and strange threads of dialogue which were rooted in perception came together. I found myself trying to transcribe the architecture of my dream world, mostly waking dreams and unusual experiential things.”.

The music is heavily influenced by the films of Andrei Tarkovsky and also the art of Albrecht Durer, particularly his depictions of the natural world. Regarding these sources of inspiration Bailey comments;
“I should mention here with absolute honesty that I discovered relationships between Tarkovsky and Durer after I had come to both of them independently of one another and found that Tarkovsky actually referenced Durer in one or two of his films. I feel that this album is, for me, the soundtrack that accompanies that relationship, and their relationship to me.”

Bailey’s notes in the press release that accompanies this album shed additional light on the inspirations behind the individual tracks while fellow guitarist Carl Orr’s succinct album liner notes provide further illumination from a peer’s perspective.

The album commences with “The Large Turf”, a piece named after a Durer painting and played by a quintet of Bailey, Andersen, Iles, France and Kass. It also features the three string players, Chalk, Chivers and Stringfellow who add both folk and classical elements to the music. The piece is notable for an exceptional double bass solo from Andersen that combines a huge tone with an acute melodic sense and a formidable dexterity. Andersen is one of the world’s greatest, and most recognisable, double bass soloists and he’s in terrific form here. Bailey, playing a solid bodied classical guitar also impresses as does the arrangement as a whole, with the playing of Iles also hinting at the influence of the Northern brass band tradition.

Played by the same combination of musicians the title of “The Human Trap” references the Peter Breugel painting “Winter Landscape With Skaters and a Bird Trap”. Breugel’s work prompted Bailey to reflect upon the fragility of human life and man’s role in the context of nature. The music is suitably panoramic in scope and remarkably rich in terms of colour and texture. Iles’ flugelhorn playing has something of the majesty of Kenny Wheeler about it and France also weighs in with a succinct, carefully constructed tenor solo. Bailey also allows himself some solo space with a flowing guitar solo possessed of a crystalline beauty. But there’s also a drama about the piece as a whole that reflects the savage beauty of Breugel’s landscape.

The brief “Oneiric 1” is the first of the four improvised pieces and here features a trio of Bailey, Arguelles and Roberts. Arguelles specialises on soprano saxophone throughout the album and here his dancing, spiralling arabesques are complemented by Bailey’s nimble guitar phrases and Roberts’ astute percussive shadings.

“Grize Dale”, named after that location in the Lake District is a beautiful dialogue between Bailey and Andersen with the two main protagonists sometimes augmented by sweeping string textures courtesy of Chalk, Chivers and Stringfellow. For me, the strings are something of a syrupy distraction, the real heart of the piece, and thus its chief treasure, is the central dialogue between Bailey and Andersen with its combination of jazz, folk and classical influences. It’s sometimes reminiscent of Andersen’s work with guitarist Ralph Towner on the 1993 ECM album “If You Look Far Enough”, credited to the pair plus percussionist Nana Vasconcelos.

Durer’s Vision” is inspired by the painter’s work “Dream Vision” with its images of apocalyptic floods. Played by jazz quintet and strings the piece has a restlessness and urgency about it with Iles’ trumpet and France’s tenor playing prominent roles in the arrangement. Andersen delivers another exceptional solo, this time darker in tone, accompanied by Bailey’s cleanly picked guitar and the insistent tapping of Kass’ cymbals. Bailey then embarks upon a solo of his own before handing over to Iles on Harmon muted trumpet.

“Oneiric II” is the second of the improvised fragments, again delivered by the trio of Bailey, Arguelles and Roberts. The owl like hooting of Arguelles’ soprano is shadowed by Bailey’s slippery guitar lines and Roberts’ always apposite drum commentary.

“You Be The Wolf” is the last movement of the suite featuring Andersen and takes its title from Bailey’s young daughter and the childhood game in which she wanted her father to ‘be the wolf’ and chase her. The music reflects Bailey’s musings on the freedom of a child’s imagination and the later compromises that child will have to make to become an accepted member of adult society. Kass’s cymbals introduce the piece, again played by jazz quintet and strings, with the opening passages expressing something of the urgency implied in the title. The arrangement is characteristically rich and full of colour. Something of the early energy is dissipated via a delightfully melodic Andersen solo, the bassist handing over to France whose tenor solo has something of an anthemic quality, which then carries over into a final passage featuring Iles’ soaring trumpet against the lush backdrop of the strings. The richness of the arrangement is a reflection of Bailey’s love of art and nature.

The second suite, this time featuring Arguelles, commences with “White Day”, the title not derived from snowfall but from the prospect of “a big white blinding new day, a blanc canvas”. Bailey’s guitar introduces the piece which is played by a sextet also featuring Arguelles, Iles, France, Jackson and Roberts, plus strings. Bailey praises Arguelles for the technical facility of his playing and “the sheer quality of his ideas”. These qualities, apparent throughout the saxophonist’s distinguished career, are manifested here as he trades solos with Bailey with Arguelles’ playing helping to propel the guitarist to new heights. The other musicians also impress in a typically thoughtful and characterful ensemble arrangement.

“Oneiric III” is the penultimate of the improvised interludes, again performed by the trio of Arguelles, Bailey and Roberts. The saxophonist’s probings, at first tentative but then increasingly confident and garrulous, are faithfully shadowed by Bailey and Roberts with the piece ending with a bout of authentic free playing.

The title of “Shivering Sky” comes not from a storm but “watching the clouds, birds and other non grounded things move slowly across the sky”. From this came the observation that behind the blue is black space, a shiver inducing thought. Played by jazz sextet plus strings the piece has an appropriately airy quality and incorporates a burnished, magisterial trumpet solo from Iles.
Meanwhile Arguelles’ contribution as a soloist is also hugely impressive

“Oneiric IV” is the last of the improvised episodes and introduces a different combination of instruments as Bailey and Arguelles are joined by Iles on trumpet and Jackson on double bass, these two given considerable prominence in the ensuing musical conversation.

“To Sleep Perchance To Dream” takes its title from the well known Shakespearian quote (from Hamlet) and ties in directly with Bailey’s concept of the Oneiric world where even death may not guarantee relief from human suffering. Consequently there’s a subtly melancholic quality about a highly effective arrangement featuring Arguelles’ gently keening soprano sax alongside richly layered strings.

“Feelings In Dusk” is another of Bailey’s tunes with its roots in nature, in this case the unity between colour, light, smell and the stillness of the air at dusk in the countryside of Northern England. A colourful but subtle arrangement attempts to express these sensory pleasures with the solos shared between Arguelles on soprano and Iles on muted trumpet.

The final piece, “Sunrise With Sea Monsters” is inspired by an unfinished painting by J.M.W. Turner and the range of unrealised possibilities that the work invokes. A vibrant arrangement helps to ensure that the album ends on an upbeat note with solos coming from France and Arguelles in the first phase of the piece. A passage of unaccompanied guitar from Bailey then leads into a quieter second half featuring Arguelles’ oboe like soprano, plus a greater role for the strings

“Oneiric Sounds” has clearly been a labour of love for Bailey and, on the whole, the album works very well. The compositions are consistently interesting and include many influences ranging from jazz to folk to contemporary classical music and the arrangements have been painstakingly prepared. All the musicians play well with the two star guests, Arguelles and Andersen,  both making massive contributions. Bailey himself is a relatively low key presence, he takes comparatively few solos, but nevertheless his guitar is right at the heart of the music.

Some listeners may find “Oneiric Sounds” a little bloodless – there’s little conventional jazz swing- and the overall concept a little too lofty. I have to admit that there were occasions when I found the strings a little too distracting or cloying, notably on “Grize Dale” which would have worked far better as a simple duet between Bailey and Andersen.

However “Oneiric Sounds” has much to recommend it and the positives far outweigh the negatives. For many listeners the presence of Andersen and Arguelles alone will be enough with many of the album’s best moments coming from them.

“Oneiric Sounds” is available from;

https://www.johnbaileymusic.co.uk/

http://www.john-bailey-music.bandcamp.com/album/oneiric-sounds

Oneiric Sounds

John Bailey

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Oneiric Sounds

"Oneiric Sounds" has clearly been a labour of love for Bailey. The compositions are consistently interesting and include many influences ranging from jazz to folk to contemporary classical music.

John Bailey

“Oneiric Sounds”

(Outhouse Records OUTHOUSE 03)

John Bailey is a Lancashire based guitarist and composer who holds an MA in Jazz Performance from the Leeds College of Music. Born in Huddersfield Bailey first played in heavy metal bands before turning to jazz and classical music.  He performs regularly in the North of England with his trio and quartet and has also toured with the operatic tenor Russell Watson and worked with Sting on the latter’s “The Last Ship” project.

“Oneiric Sounds” is Bailey’s third album as a leader and his most ambitious work to date. It follows two earlier small group recordings, “Black Ship, Bright Sea” and “Heart Horizons”.

Now, I have to admit that before this album dropped through my letterbox I’d never heard of John Bailey, but anybody who can persuade such jazz heavyweights as British saxophonist Julian Arguelles and Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen to appear on his album is definitely worth paying attention to.

Bailey’s two star guests don’t actually play together. Each appears on a separate suite of music recorded at different sessions. The movements of each suite are then punctuated by four improvised passages featuring Bailey, Arguelles and others under catch all title “Oneiric”.

Besides Bailey, Andersen and Arguelles the recording also features the talents of Richard Iles (flugelhorn, trumpet), Tim France (tenor sax), Garry Jackson (electric & acoustic bass), Simon Chalk (violin), Mark Chivers (viola) and Nick Stringfellow (cello). Drumming duties are shared by Richard Kass, who performed on the Andersen session, and Eryl Roberts who performed alongside Arguelles.

Bailey says of the album title;
“The word ‘Oneiric’ means ‘dream like. When I was conceiving the album I had no really strong angle from which I was working. The more I thought about the music the more I slipped into a dream world where meanings, intent and strange threads of dialogue which were rooted in perception came together. I found myself trying to transcribe the architecture of my dream world, mostly waking dreams and unusual experiential things.”.

The music is heavily influenced by the films of Andrei Tarkovsky and also the art of Albrecht Durer, particularly his depictions of the natural world. Regarding these sources of inspiration Bailey comments;
“I should mention here with absolute honesty that I discovered relationships between Tarkovsky and Durer after I had come to both of them independently of one another and found that Tarkovsky actually referenced Durer in one or two of his films. I feel that this album is, for me, the soundtrack that accompanies that relationship, and their relationship to me.”

Bailey’s notes in the press release that accompanies this album shed additional light on the inspirations behind the individual tracks while fellow guitarist Carl Orr’s succinct album liner notes provide further illumination from a peer’s perspective.

The album commences with “The Large Turf”, a piece named after a Durer painting and played by a quintet of Bailey, Andersen, Iles, France and Kass. It also features the three string players, Chalk, Chivers and Stringfellow who add both folk and classical elements to the music. The piece is notable for an exceptional double bass solo from Andersen that combines a huge tone with an acute melodic sense and a formidable dexterity. Andersen is one of the world’s greatest, and most recognisable, double bass soloists and he’s in terrific form here. Bailey, playing a solid bodied classical guitar also impresses as does the arrangement as a whole, with the playing of Iles also hinting at the influence of the Northern brass band tradition.

Played by the same combination of musicians the title of “The Human Trap” references the Peter Breugel painting “Winter Landscape With Skaters and a Bird Trap”. Breugel’s work prompted Bailey to reflect upon the fragility of human life and man’s role in the context of nature. The music is suitably panoramic in scope and remarkably rich in terms of colour and texture. Iles’ flugelhorn playing has something of the majesty of Kenny Wheeler about it and France also weighs in with a succinct, carefully constructed tenor solo. Bailey also allows himself some solo space with a flowing guitar solo possessed of a crystalline beauty. But there’s also a drama about the piece as a whole that reflects the savage beauty of Breugel’s landscape.

The brief “Oneiric 1” is the first of the four improvised pieces and here features a trio of Bailey, Arguelles and Roberts. Arguelles specialises on soprano saxophone throughout the album and here his dancing, spiralling arabesques are complemented by Bailey’s nimble guitar phrases and Roberts’ astute percussive shadings.

“Grize Dale”, named after that location in the Lake District is a beautiful dialogue between Bailey and Andersen with the two main protagonists sometimes augmented by sweeping string textures courtesy of Chalk, Chivers and Stringfellow. For me, the strings are something of a syrupy distraction, the real heart of the piece, and thus its chief treasure, is the central dialogue between Bailey and Andersen with its combination of jazz, folk and classical influences. It’s sometimes reminiscent of Andersen’s work with guitarist Ralph Towner on the 1993 ECM album “If You Look Far Enough”, credited to the pair plus percussionist Nana Vasconcelos.

Durer’s Vision” is inspired by the painter’s work “Dream Vision” with its images of apocalyptic floods. Played by jazz quintet and strings the piece has a restlessness and urgency about it with Iles’ trumpet and France’s tenor playing prominent roles in the arrangement. Andersen delivers another exceptional solo, this time darker in tone, accompanied by Bailey’s cleanly picked guitar and the insistent tapping of Kass’ cymbals. Bailey then embarks upon a solo of his own before handing over to Iles on Harmon muted trumpet.

“Oneiric II” is the second of the improvised fragments, again delivered by the trio of Bailey, Arguelles and Roberts. The owl like hooting of Arguelles’ soprano is shadowed by Bailey’s slippery guitar lines and Roberts’ always apposite drum commentary.

“You Be The Wolf” is the last movement of the suite featuring Andersen and takes its title from Bailey’s young daughter and the childhood game in which she wanted her father to ‘be the wolf’ and chase her. The music reflects Bailey’s musings on the freedom of a child’s imagination and the later compromises that child will have to make to become an accepted member of adult society. Kass’s cymbals introduce the piece, again played by jazz quintet and strings, with the opening passages expressing something of the urgency implied in the title. The arrangement is characteristically rich and full of colour. Something of the early energy is dissipated via a delightfully melodic Andersen solo, the bassist handing over to France whose tenor solo has something of an anthemic quality, which then carries over into a final passage featuring Iles’ soaring trumpet against the lush backdrop of the strings. The richness of the arrangement is a reflection of Bailey’s love of art and nature.

The second suite, this time featuring Arguelles, commences with “White Day”, the title not derived from snowfall but from the prospect of “a big white blinding new day, a blanc canvas”. Bailey’s guitar introduces the piece which is played by a sextet also featuring Arguelles, Iles, France, Jackson and Roberts, plus strings. Bailey praises Arguelles for the technical facility of his playing and “the sheer quality of his ideas”. These qualities, apparent throughout the saxophonist’s distinguished career, are manifested here as he trades solos with Bailey with Arguelles’ playing helping to propel the guitarist to new heights. The other musicians also impress in a typically thoughtful and characterful ensemble arrangement.

“Oneiric III” is the penultimate of the improvised interludes, again performed by the trio of Arguelles, Bailey and Roberts. The saxophonist’s probings, at first tentative but then increasingly confident and garrulous, are faithfully shadowed by Bailey and Roberts with the piece ending with a bout of authentic free playing.

The title of “Shivering Sky” comes not from a storm but “watching the clouds, birds and other non grounded things move slowly across the sky”. From this came the observation that behind the blue is black space, a shiver inducing thought. Played by jazz sextet plus strings the piece has an appropriately airy quality and incorporates a burnished, magisterial trumpet solo from Iles.
Meanwhile Arguelles’ contribution as a soloist is also hugely impressive

“Oneiric IV” is the last of the improvised episodes and introduces a different combination of instruments as Bailey and Arguelles are joined by Iles on trumpet and Jackson on double bass, these two given considerable prominence in the ensuing musical conversation.

“To Sleep Perchance To Dream” takes its title from the well known Shakespearian quote (from Hamlet) and ties in directly with Bailey’s concept of the Oneiric world where even death may not guarantee relief from human suffering. Consequently there’s a subtly melancholic quality about a highly effective arrangement featuring Arguelles’ gently keening soprano sax alongside richly layered strings.

“Feelings In Dusk” is another of Bailey’s tunes with its roots in nature, in this case the unity between colour, light, smell and the stillness of the air at dusk in the countryside of Northern England. A colourful but subtle arrangement attempts to express these sensory pleasures with the solos shared between Arguelles on soprano and Iles on muted trumpet.

The final piece, “Sunrise With Sea Monsters” is inspired by an unfinished painting by J.M.W. Turner and the range of unrealised possibilities that the work invokes. A vibrant arrangement helps to ensure that the album ends on an upbeat note with solos coming from France and Arguelles in the first phase of the piece. A passage of unaccompanied guitar from Bailey then leads into a quieter second half featuring Arguelles’ oboe like soprano, plus a greater role for the strings

“Oneiric Sounds” has clearly been a labour of love for Bailey and, on the whole, the album works very well. The compositions are consistently interesting and include many influences ranging from jazz to folk to contemporary classical music and the arrangements have been painstakingly prepared. All the musicians play well with the two star guests, Arguelles and Andersen,  both making massive contributions. Bailey himself is a relatively low key presence, he takes comparatively few solos, but nevertheless his guitar is right at the heart of the music.

Some listeners may find “Oneiric Sounds” a little bloodless – there’s little conventional jazz swing- and the overall concept a little too lofty. I have to admit that there were occasions when I found the strings a little too distracting or cloying, notably on “Grize Dale” which would have worked far better as a simple duet between Bailey and Andersen.

However “Oneiric Sounds” has much to recommend it and the positives far outweigh the negatives. For many listeners the presence of Andersen and Arguelles alone will be enough with many of the album’s best moments coming from them.

“Oneiric Sounds” is available from;

https://www.johnbaileymusic.co.uk/

http://www.john-bailey-music.bandcamp.com/album/oneiric-sounds


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