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Friday, August 12, 2016

CD Review: Euan Stevenson & Konrad Wiszniewski – New Focus On Song

(Review by Russell).
New Focus is an ongoing collaboration between pianist Euan Stevenson and fellow Scot, saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski. On Song is their second album on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings label. The majority of the thirteen tracks were composed by Euan Stevenson, the format similar to New Focus’ first CD, incorporating jazz quartet, string quartet and harp.

Air in D Minor would suggest classical connotations. This is the opening to the album. A brace of folk-inspired numbers follow – Green Park and Destination Unknown – making it abundantly clear this isn’t a straight ahead jazz album. No one said it was. It is what it is. The strings are members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Sophia’s Song is an amalgam of Wiszniewski blowing, the strings attempting a riff and Alyn Cosker’s superb ‘big band’ drumming.
Stevenson has sought to incorporate disparate elements; French impressionism and Celtic folk melodies, small group jazz and solo piano episodes. The jazz ear was taken by Corea Change; scorching jazz quartet (think Tubby Hayes or Johnny Griffin), Cosker in Buddy Rich mode, Stevenson’s dazzling jazz piano. The strings enter late on and give as good as they get. This is the ‘jazz’ of the album. There is more jazz on Fourths Ostinato. Cosker is once again at the centre of things with an outstanding, high-octane workout as Konrad Wiszniewski’s soprano tirade scales the heights.  
Jazz and strings, jazz with strings or music with strings. From a jazz perspective, On Song is an album for those with a penchant for a ‘jazz plus’ offering.      
New Focus On Song on Whirlwind Recordings (WR4690) is released on August 19. The album launch, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe, is at the Jazz Bar on August 20.            
Russell.

Euan Stevenson (piano), Konrad Wiszniewski (tenor & soprano saxophones, clarinet, low D whistle), Andrew Robb (double bass), Alyn Cosker (drums & percussion);  the Glasgow String Quartet: William Chandler (violin), Lorna Rough (violin), Ian Budd (viola), Betsy Taylor (cello); Nicola Wiszniewski (flute) & Alina Bzhezhinska (harp)

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