by Ian Mann
September 03, 2015
An ambitious project featuring a twelve piece ensemble that combines elements of jazz and classical composition. Pringle and his musicians conjure up a fascinating array of sounds and textures.
“A Moveable Feast”
(Stoney Lane Records #SLR1954)
Mark Pringle is a young pianist and composer who has studied music in both Birmingham and Paris. His début album, “A Moveable Feast” is an ambitious project featuring a twelve piece ensemble that combines elements of jazz and classical composition. It was largely inspired by Pringle’s time in Paris and the album title is derived from an Ernest Hemingway quote about the French capital that is faithfully reproduced as part of the album packaging.
Musically Pringle cites the formative influences of jazz pianists Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson with Olivier Messiaen representing an inspirational figure on the classical side. The splendidly eclectic Django Bates represents something of a bridge between the two worlds as does the contemporary classical composer Joe Cutler. In 2010 Pringle, then aged nineteen, recorded an acclaimed album of piano duets with his one time teacher John Law and in 2015 he was the recipient of the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award, an annual jazz prize that has often proved to be a stepping stone on the road to bigger and better things for aspiring young jazz musicians. Pringle’s excellent website http://www.markpringlemusic.com includes a more comprehensive biography and also includes details of the many other projects that he is involved with, many of these exploring the hinterland where jazz and contemporary classical music meet.
“A Moveable Feast” was recorded in Birmingham at the Adrian Boult Hall at Birmingham Conservatoire and is released on the Digbeth based Stoney Lane record label founded by Birmingham based guitarist Sam Slater (of TG Collective fame). Rather poignantly the album packaging also contains a quote from another of Pringle’s former teachers, the great John Taylor who died suddenly and tragically earlier in 2015.
For this ambitious recording Pringle has assembled a twelve piece ensemble of Birmingham based musicians that lines up as follows;
Mark Pringle - piano
Percy Pursglove - trumpet
Chris Young - alto sax
Dan Serjeant - tenor & alto saxes, flute
Alicia Gardener-Trejo - bass clarinet, baritone sax, alto flute
Christine Cornwell - violin
Sarah Farmer - violin
Megan Jowett - viola
Lucy French -cello
Ben Lee- electric guitar
James Banner - double bass
Euan Palmer - drums
The music to be heard on “A Moveable Feast” has been described as drawing on “multiple cultural influences containing themes of nature, wildlife, literature, the chaos of cities, the lives of people who inhabit them, woodland creatures and strange beasts…”.
The first of the eight original Pringle compositions is “A Real Bombshell”, the title inspired by Messiaen’s reaction upon first seeing a score written by Claude Debussy. It begins relatively loosely with Pringle’s skittish pianism augmented by Banner at the bass and Palmer at the drums but subsequently takes on more of a big band feel with the addition of horns and strings as Django Bates and the whole Loose Tubes thing suddenly becomes a far more tangible influence. Pursglove emerges from this to deliver a striking and powerful trumpet solo that embraces a wide dynamic range and a variety of trumpet techniques. Palmer’s drums then provide a linking passage into a more impressionistic section featuring piano, flutes and strings.
Eerie bow scrapes provide a segue into “Ode To The Trees”, a piece inspired by the Bois de Boulogne and its “woodland creatures and strange beasts”. The pastoral qualities of Pringle’s piano are offset by the rich but eerie and unsettling textures generated by a variety of strings, woodwind and percussion and the piece becomes more animated and freely structured as it progresses. Pringle eventually emerges with a richly inventive piano solo, his jagged runs well supported by the rich textures of the ensemble.
“Happy Plants (Part 1) is a brief interlude featuring the string section with the darkly sonorous sounds of cello and viola offset by vigorous and percussive pizzicato plucking.
“Hasha’s Theme”, written late on a Paris night, initially features a needling piano motif plus similarly edgy ensemble textures. The piece eventually settles down to deliver a brooding theme with Pringle’s piano now supported by rich, dark hued horn colours and textures. There’s also some fine soloing from the horns, presumably Young and/or Serjeant as the piece grows in intensity once more.
“Happy Plants (Part II)” is a brief but joyous ensemble excursion in the style of a calypso but is tantalisingly short. It would have been nice to have seen this developed a little further.
“The Writer” is Pringle’s tribute to Hemingway and the inspiration provided by the author’s writings on Paris. It’s a dark but beguiling piece full of rich, sonorous ensemble textures interspersed by squalling, unsettling free jazz episodes.
Pringle toys with structure and freedom on “Through The Grate” which offers a fascinating array of sounds and textures - whether bowed, blown, scraped, plucked or struck - and exhibits an almost unbearable tensile quality.
The album then ends on an elegiac note with the brief but lovely “And That’s OK” with its warm fanfare of horns.
“A Moveable Feast” is an ambitious album that overall succeeds very well. Pringle and his musicians conjure up a fascinating array of sounds and textures and the balance between structure and freedom is always a constant source of interest. It’s not exactly an easy listen and conventional jazz swing is in short supply but it is a rewarding experience for the open minded listener. For a contemporary jazz album it’s also rather short at a little over half an hour in length but it’s probably best to view “A Moveable Feast” as a single piece of work, a kind of suite if you will.
Pringle will be touring extensively in the UK during the autumn of 2015 in a variety of formats from trio to large ensemble. Forthcoming dates are listed below. Please go to http://www.markpringlemusic.com for further information.
? Fri 4th September - Birmingham - The Red Lion (Trio)
? Sun 6th September - London - Lume Presents @ The Vortex (Large Ensemble)
? Tues 8th September - Manchester - Matt and Phred’s (Trio)
? Weds 9th September - Glasgow - The Butterfly and the Pig (Quartet feat. Adam Jackson)
? Thurs 10th September - Edinburgh - Jazz Bar (Trio)
? Fri 11th September - Newcastle - Jazz Café (Trio)
? Sunday 13th September - Oxford - Wine Café (Trio)
? Weds 16th September - Cardiff - Dempsey’s (Trio)
? Fri 18th September - Birmingham - Symphony Hall (Trio)
? Sat 19th September - Wells, Somerset - Wookey Hole Club (Trio)
? Sun 20th September - London - The Green Note (Trio)
? Fri 25th September - London - Southbank Centre (Quintet feat. Joe Wright + Lluis Mather)
? Sun 27th September - London - Omnibus, Clapham (Quintet feat. Joe Wright + Lluis Mather)
? Mon 28th September - London - The Oxford (Quintet feat. Joe Wright + Lluis Mather)
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Mark Pringle - A Moveable Feast
Released 18th September, 2015
Stoney Lane Records #SLR1954