sat 21/10/2017

CD: Trish Clowes – Pocket Compass | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Trish Clowes – Pocket Compass

CD: Trish Clowes – Pocket Compass

Clowes' third album condenses and refines her exquisite control of instrumental colour

Pocket Compass - navigating colourfully through the world of chamber jazz

With the musical riches of the BBC, an extended educational visit to Wayne Shorter, and broader collaborations with some of Europe’s most distinctive avant-garde players, it’s not surprising Trish Clowes needs a pocket compass to plot her artistic path. Clowes’ two years as a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist are drawing to a close, but with the release of this, her third album, the evidence of her development is plain, with a richer compositional palette, more widely-sourced themes and more tightly woven musical textures.

She’s always been situated in the fertile territory where improvisation meets the soundscape of the classical ensemble, with a dash of folk sensibility, and it all comes together in a cool, chamber jazz sound full of delightfully detailed instrumental colour. Though Ellington was an early influence, there’s less trace of him here, and more of the dashing harmonies and probing rhythm of the Loose Tubes, whose saxophonist Iain Ballamy is still a regular collaborator. She’s often experimented with jazz arrangaments for the oboe, which adds its unmistakeable colour – part plaintively rustic, part invitingly louche – to “Balloon”. 

Her long-standing ensemble Tangent displays its pedigree with an impeccable performance of some demandingly diverse scores. She works with some of the most talented twenty- and thirtysomething soloists in the UK, including star pianist Gwilym Simcock, who punctuates with delicacy throughout, and silvery-fluent guitarist Chris Montague. Most of all, though, Clowes stars herself on tenor and soprano sax. Perhaps her stand-out contribution is “Pfeiffer and the Whales”, inspired by a whale-watching trip, her soprano solo conjuring an atmosphere of exquisite tranquililty. This is not music that wears its heart on its sleeve; it requires several listens to appreciate the depth and intelligence of the arrangements. Its originality is subtle, but for a demonstration of the kaleidoscopic colours of the jazz ensemble, all compasses point here.

It all comes together in a cool, chamber jazz sound full of delightfully detailed instrumental colour

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