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13,530 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 948 of them this year alone and, so far, 112 this month (July 31).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

CD Review: Andy Sheppard Quartet – Romaria

Andy Sheppard – tenor and soprano saxophones; Eivind Aarset – guitar; Michel Benita – double bass; Sebastian Rochford – drums
(Review by Hugh C) 
There was something of the theatrical about my encounter, at the Alphabetti theatre, with a diminutive, smartly dressed gentleman during the interval of the recent Strictly Smokin'/Paul Booth gig.  “I'm glad I met you, I have something for you”, he said, reaching into one of the voluminous inner pockets of his coat.  Producing a sheaf of review CDs, Lance proceeded to sort through them in the dimly lit auditorium.  “Andy Sheppard?” he said handing me a CD still in its shrink-wrap and then searching for another for me to deliver to a BSH colleague.

On the majority of occasions, a review CD from Lance will come wrapped in one or more A4 sheets of printed press release held in place by an elastic band.  This information is often duplicated on the CD case insert or the record label website.  I find these sources useful in providing a skeleton on which to hang my words.  In this case, there were no attached printed sheets, bare minimum track and personnel details on the insert and limited information on the ECM website (actually there was no mention of this CD when I first looked!). This review is therefore not influenced by any external sources and based purely on my listening and personal prejudices (Lance knows I like Andy Sheppard's output).

The CD was recorded in the spacious acoustic of Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano – home of the acclaimed Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana.  With the exception of the title track, these are all Sheppard's compositions.  This is very much an extension of the explorative process the quartet started with their previous release, Surrounded by Sea - previously reviewed on BSH.  
Track 1, And a Day opens with a few seconds silence followed by a slow rhythmic beat on Rochford's drums, gradually joined by the other musicians.  The gentle pace of Rochford's spacious percussion is maintained throughout, overlain by melodic interplay.  Sheppard's signature tenor sound and motifs are identifiable from the start.  
Thirteen, in complete contrast, commences with rapid-fire cymbals.  Sheppard, on soprano this time, adds a middle-Eastern flavour.  The hurried pace is maintained for thfirst-halflf reducing to a more sedate pace for a while before picking up speed gradually towards the end.  
The title track, Romaria (a small municipality in Brazil) is by Brazilian singer/songwriter Renato Teixeira.  In this track, as in the majority on this album, there is complex interplay between saxophone, guitar and bass – very much a melodic participant throughout the album.  
Pop sees the laid back drumming of Rochford very much to the fore, but by no means to the exclusion of the other members of the quartet.  
They Come From The North features (perhaps not unexpectedly) the Norwegian Aarset's haunting electronically enhanced guitar chords – evoking an empty Arctic scene and the Northern Lights on the horizon. 
With Every Flower That Falls really brings Benita's bass out of the “rhythm section” and right into the melodic fold.  
All Becomes Again commences with a rhythmic bass solo, slowly picked up on the drums later joined by guitar and tenor.  
The CD goes out on a high in Forever with Sheppard's melodic tenor against Aarset's extended guitar chords.
Romaria was released on February 16 and is available on CD or LP.  ECM catalogue number: ECM 2577.
In the UK the Quartet may be seen live at St. George's, Bristol on May 3 and will also be at the 2018 Cheltenham Jazz Festival on May 6.
Hugh.

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