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Thursday, April 04, 2019

CD Review: Ushaw Ensemble - Ushaw Ensemble Volume 1

Paul Edis (composer, piano, musical director); Graeme Wilson (tenor sax, bass clarinet, flute); Graham Hardy (trumpet, flugelhorn); Andy May (Northumbrian pipes); Rob Walker (drums, percussion); Paul Susans (double bass); Emma Fisk (violin)
(Review by Russell)

Ushaw Ensemble Volume 1 is the latest chapter in the evolving story of a commissioned suite of music which met with universal critical acclaim following performances at festivals and jazz club engagements. Composer Paul Edis assembled a septet comprising notable figures on the national jazz stage alongside respected Northumbrian piper Andy May to interpret his music celebrating the life and story of St Cuthbert. The CD serves as a document of the story so far..


Volume 1 is in two parts; the greater part (St. Cuthbert Suite) comprising eleven tracks, and a stand-alone composition (Sound of Achill) closing some fifty minutes or so of absorbing music. St. Cuthbert's Theme is stated by violinist Emma Fisk, a theme which recurs periodically throughout the suite. Andy May's haunting pipes (A Shepherd from Melrose) evoke an ancient, bleak, seventh-century Northumbrian landscape in which Cuthbert lived and worked. Abbeys, monasteries and religious retreats punctuate Edis' narrative yet faith, belief, call it what you will, isn't a prerequisite when listening to the music of the Ushaw Ensemble. 

Edis' writing succeeds in fusing folk, jazz and classical elements; Fisk and May etching Cuthbert's simple, at times solitary, existence, similarly double bassist Paul Susans (Solitude), Graham Hardy (trumpet and flugelhorn) making a connection between ancient and modern horn instruments, Graeme Wilson (tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute) given license to roam across the piece, in the process unleashing a ferocious, freely improvised tenor saxophone contribution in tandem with drummer Rob Walker (The Vikings, track 8), and the architect of the Ushaw Ensemble project, Paul Edis, incorporating myriad styles and influences including, as the composer acknowledges, Debussy, Ravel, Ellington and Messiaen. 

Ushaw Ensemble Volume 1 tells a story, the music is majestic, and, as the title suggests, there is Volume 2 to look forward to.   

Ushaw Ensemble Volume 1 should be considered an essential purchase. For further details visit: www.pauledis.co.uk  

The Ushaw Ensemble will perform the music of Volume 1 at a CD launch concert at Ushaw College, April 4 (tonight), 7:30pm.         

Russell

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