Liane Carroll, Ballads, Quiet Money

From 2013. The Liane Carroll album we’ve all been waiting for in more ways than one, an album that surpasses her greatest and considerable achievements to date such as her quietly moving 2003 album, Billy No Mates, or the way, live, she sings ‘You …

Published: 28 Nov 2019. Updated: 12 months.

From 2013. The Liane Carroll album we’ve all been waiting for in more ways than one, an album that surpasses her greatest and considerable achievements to date such as her quietly moving 2003 album, Billy No Mates, or the way, live, she sings ‘You Don’t Know Me’ with that despairing rebuke in her voice. Forget all the awards that she’s won this is where the music does the talking.

The 11 songs of Ballads, such sad lingering ones, with their demon eyes blazing furiously, or simply gazing slackly as the song demands, the mood set in terms of interpretation by the resigned quietly dark despair in the ambivalent ‘Here’s to Life’, as good in its different way as the superlative version of the song on Barbra Streisand’s Love is the Answer.

Another early album peak of Ballads is the Sammy Cahn/Jimmy van Heusen song Sinatra made his own, ‘Only the Lonely’, set for big band by a 21st century Nelson Riddle, Chris Walden, its opening lyric: ‘Each place I go/only the lonely go’, could even be the maxim for an album that as a journey to intimacy thrives on isolation as in the stark Gwilym Simcock piano accompaniment to ‘Mad About the Boy’, or returning to the theme explicitly on ‘The Two Lonely People’, Carroll’s expression by times hotly emotional or icily cold depending on the mood she’s conveying.

Be warned though, it’s not a depressing album in any way, as her version of ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ more than affirms. In a sense Ballads is a confessional album gathering together many classic complementary songs cleverly collected and interpreted that espouse loneliness, loss, but above all a longing for love.

Carroll is at her most heartfelt and life-affirming on Todd Rundgren’s ‘Pretending to Care’ from 1985’s A Cappella with a remarkable, pingingly-pure, top note at a crucial arc of the song. No one’s come close to releasing a jazz vocals album of this quality so far this year and my guess is it will be a long wait until someones does. SG

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Partisans, Swamp, Whirlwind

From 2014. Back for their first album in five years Partisans re-invented jazz-rock on the UK scene in the late-1990s not that it was particularly apparent at the time. Hindsight, typically, is the only exact science. The four piece, co-led by …

Published: 28 Nov 2019. Updated: 12 months.

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From 2014. Back for their first album in five years Partisans re-invented jazz-rock on the UK scene in the late-1990s not that it was particularly apparent at the time. Hindsight, typically, is the only exact science. The four piece, co-led by saxophonist/clarinettist Julian Siegel, and guitarist Phil Robson, with Thaddeus Kelly on bass, and Gene Calderazzo, drums, have in the space of more than a decade and a half put out four albums the last three By Proxy, Max and Sourpuss on Babel, with their self-titled debut in 1997 appearing on the now long-gone EFZ.

Refreshed with an even more complex sound than before and now moving to Whirlwind Recordings, Swamp was recorded in February over a couple of days at London studio Eastcote.

With four tunes by Siegel and four by Robson (including the title track), it’s not all jazz-rock by any means, the album opens with tense morse code-like percussion on ‘Flip the Sneck’ and a high-life Afro-Caribbean lilt to Robson's guitar line Siegel sinuously exuberant on his first elaborate foray.

The mood is mellow on ‘Low Glow’ Robson Sco-like with subtle development from bass and drums the plot thickening quickly. ‘Thin Man’ has more of a tortured ballad feel to it, Siegel on bass clarinet initially the shadowy foil to the main process of balladeering.

Title track ‘Swamp’ has a squally distorted wah-wah glaze to it, the quartet entering Wayne Shorter territory a little bit more, the tension gradually ratcheting up. 'Veto' allows Calderazzo to call the shots at the beginning, with a lively driving beat that then pushes Siegel and Robson on.

‘Overview’ has a Lionel Loueke-like impetus to it rhythmically via Robson while again Siegel shows his reflective side, with lots of tonal resource spilling out when he plays soprano saxophone here, Calderazzo carving the beat like a master carpenter. ‘Mickey’ and final track ‘Icicle Architects’ (the latter more a chamber piece) complete what is a very accomplished album with some world class ensemble playing throughout. SG