Distant Song

Of appeal to Norma Winstone fans firstly in comparative terms to strike a chord of recognition of a male counterpart somehow of the great English singer’s attuned artistic sensibilities in the melding of lyrics and emotion as a series of observed truths and melody, and secondly a fascination for fans of instrumental jazz because singer Fred Farell provides new contexts by singing the music of Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach which he has written lyrics for. 

Farell performs with the ex-Miles Davis saxophonist and Quest piano legend who have also recorded as a distinguished duo under their own names.  Unerringly Elling-like at times, Farell is the real deal in terms of sincerity, his voice speaks authority as does the tender truth expressed in the lyrics made beyond bittersweet in the non-standard key choices and musical arrangements.

While the tempos are often largo as the construction of the tunes involves a certain unfolding that takes time to reveal itself Farell handles them comfortably, not easy technically I imagine, underlining their delicacy and the compelling stories of incompleteness and loss however triumphed over or as often not that they have to tell, Beirach’s changes and subtle shifts in mood are a joy, Liebman’s interpolations provide a teasing out of overall interaction that again shapes the direction of the music in responsive ways.

‘Mitsuki’ (which also appeared in a piano trio setting on the very rare LP Eon, released in 1975) is my pick overall, a beaut to go back to time and time again. There is a lot going on in this record, ease yourself into the record as it rewards patient listening, an unheard voice with an individual story to tell, lyrics that enhance the instrumental creation of versions you may dimly recall or even cherish and a performance rapport between singer, pianist and saxophonist that regularly stops you dead in your tracks ultimately to engage. Out now, label. SG