Three tracks feature the saxophonist-composer’s own small band Tangent – pianist Gwilym Simcock, electric guitarist Chris Montague, double bassist Calum Gourlay, and drummer James Maddren – joining her and the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by André de Ridder.
The remaining five tracks are solely small band tracks but really size of ensemble does not really matter here, it’s the method at work. The well-integrated orchestral tracks were recorded first back in January in Air Lyndhurst in Hampstead, the small band tracks made less than six weeks later in Sussex in the jazz-friendly space of Curtis Schwartz’s studio where Stacey Kent and the Impossible Gentlemen among a range of leading jazz artists have made music over the years.
Clowes on both tenor and soprano saxophone has a playing style that draws to mind Iain Ballamy’s approach a little, and beyond the obvious virtuosity the record contains some of the most absorbing original music in the jazz-classical idiom released this year (in the same league as Tim Garland’s Songs to the North Sky).
Strongly inspired by Wayne Shorter, who Clowes went to meet in the States, one of the small group pieces is ‘Wayne's Waltz,’ not only namechecking Shorter but more importantly drawing on his very oblique highly rhythmic and obliquely poetic compositional method. Other inspirations include a poem by Oscar Wilde, at the heart of the album, a writer who has been a long-time inspiration of Clowes’, the words, reproduced within the artwork, of ‘Symphony in Yellow’ starkly contrasting natural and bucolic imagery with that of the city, however bustling, nevertheless held captive by its river-based environment and seasonal shifts. A fine achievement, one to add to any self-respecting list of jazz albums of the year. SG
Released on 10 November