by Ian Mann
May 24, 2017
Morley’s classically honed technique and lightness of touch is immediately apparent, but there’s a rhythmic rigour and vigour about the music too.
“Through The Hours”
(Self Released EP)
Meg Morley is an Australian born pianist and composer now living and working in London. She is a versatile musician who studied classical music at the University of Southern Queensland where her tutors included the classical pianists Wendy Lorenz and Roy Howat and the composer Gerard Brophy.
Morley subsequently moved to Melbourne where she completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jazz Improvisation under the guidance of Andrea Keller and Dr. Timothy Stevens. Following this she taught piano and improvisation at two prestigious Melbourne grammar schools as well as performing and playing for the Australian Ballet and its associated Ballet School.
In 2010 Morley moved to London and secured a full time post as pianist with the English National Ballet School. She also found time to perform with leading musicians from other genres including jazz vocalist Tina May and was at one time a member of the leading UK samba band Rhythms of The City.
Morley has continued to work with various dance companies including a stint as Resident Musician at the London Contemporary Ballet Theatre. More recently she became the resident pianist at the Kennington Bioscope, a silent film organisation based at the London Cinema Museum. This has led to numerous other engagements playing at film festivals in the UK and mainland Europe. Indeed a glance at Morley’s date sheet on her website http://www.megmorleymusic.com suggests that this is one of her main areas of focus at the present time.
In 2014 Morley released her début jazz album “Searching Not Finding” with the trio MIA Panboola, a London based ensemble founded in 2011 which teamed her with the vocalists Ileana Di Camillo and Antonio De Lillis. The album, comprised entirely of original material, also included contributions from trumpeter John Cervantes, bassist Richard Sadler and drummer Emiliano Caroselli. The rhythm section of Sadler and Caroselli continued to appear with the core trio at live performances at such prestigious London venues as The Vortex and Ronnie Scott’s and Morley established a strong rapport with the pair. She is currently working on a trio album of original material with Scott and Caroselli which is due for release later in 2017.
That is a release that will be eagerly anticipated but in the meantime we have this mini-album of five solo piano pieces to enjoy. “Through the Hours” has won the approval of fellow pianist Kit Downes who was kind enough to recommend Morley’s music to me. The EP has also won the endorsement of Morley’s one time mentor Dr. Timothy Stevens.
Recording details are not included in the EP packaging but the production is clean and clear and serves to emphasise the nuances of both the writing and the playing. Morley’s classically honed technique and lightness of touch is immediately apparent, but there’s a rhythmic rigour and vigour about the music too.
All of these characteristics are apparent in the opening “Rush Hour” which begins in serenely lyrical fashion before an insistent left hand figure propels the music into more turbulent territory, the energy and urgency of the music now more suggestive of the title. Eventually the tumult subsides and the piece ends as quietly as it began, suggesting that all those rush hour commuters have finally reached home safely.
“Drift” combines a slowly flowing melody with a gently rolling rhythm and unfolds slowly and gradually. This time the title is deliberately ambiguous, but to me evokes images of fallen leaves drifting idly on a river current.
“In Your Shadow” exhibits similar qualities with a lush, lyrical melody underpinned by more complex harmonies and rhythms.
“Little Miss” combines elegant melodies with increasingly complex but subtly funky rhythmic patterns.
Similar qualities imbue the closing title track, at seven and a half minutes the lengthiest piece on the recording. Here Morley dives even deeper, her playing becoming more intense and full of dramatic classical flourishes, yet always balanced by an innate underlying lyricism.
The pristine quality of the production helps the listener to engage with the music and to fully appreciate the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic qualities of Morley’s playing and the inventiveness and subtlety of her writing.
For the non-musician, such as myself, solo piano albums can sometimes feel a little too one dimensional. However I felt no such qualms about this recording which I found consistently engaging and which thoroughly absorbed my attention throughout. It’s music that would be perfectly suited to BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction programme.
Perhaps the best summation of the recording is this quote from fellow pianist Kit Downes which appears on Morley’s own website;
“A beautiful collection of melodically driven solo piano pieces - each one starting down a path that you think you know the end of, but then twisting into new and unexpected areas. Subtle voicings and elegant turns of phrase make this EP a really absorbing listen.”
Well said Kit, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Meg Morley will launch “Through the Hours” with a live performance at the 1901 Art Club in London on June 7th 2017. For tickets please visit;