Andy Sheppard, above, left, Michel Benita, Seb Rochford and Eivind Aarset
With Trio Libero augmented by guitarist Eivind Aarset from the Movements in Colour band Andy Sheppard spread his band’s wings on his latest album Surrounded by Sea. And next month the quartet embark on a rare run of Irish dates playing Sugar Club, Dublin (7 October), Great Hall Magee, Derry (8 Oct), the MAC, Belfast (9 Oct) and Dolans, Limerick (10 Oct).
A studio album recorded in Lugano last year the saxophonist and double bassist Michel Benita’s tune ‘Tipping Point’ opens Surrounded by Sea pensively, sax-soft, a ballad by some process of musical osmosis Benita’s pulsing bass the heartbeat of an album that goes on to include Elvis Costello’s world weary ‘I Want To Vanish’, a band-arranged Scots Gaelic traditional air treated in three different ways, a piece penned by the third Trio Libero member Sebastian Rochford as well as several Sheppard pieces including joyous closer ‘Looking for Ornette.’
There is a strong chamber jazz flavour on what is a highly introspective album, a sense of lontano provided at certain points by the wash of Aarset’s guitar. In its folkloric side translated imagistically by Sheppard the Quercus approach springs to mind for further comparison.
A very mournful album overall, the bass led-off ‘Origin of Species’ contemplative and calm the mood though much too subdued. Rochford’s ‘They Aren’t Perfect and Neither Am I’ allows Aarset more of a role while Sheppard is incredibly sensitive on soprano at the beginning of the second very brief but beautifully cleansing part of ‘Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir’ (translated as ‘Aoidh, Don’t Sleep At All’). Heightened volume levels are a feature of the beginning of Sheppard’s ‘I See Your Eyes Before Me’ a tune that has a rawness to it, Aarset scything through expansive tenor saxophone lines the scope of this meta-ballad shifting ever elusively.