A founding member of shortlived but hugely influential 1980s post-punk band Rip Rig + Panic, pianist and composer Mark Springer’s solo career since has developed into a wider screen compositional vision. These releases emphasise this career trajectory yet also return to a vital career source.
Double CD set The Watching Bird includes piano quintet music with the Potentino Piano Quintet, and music written by Springer for five pianos recorded live (using live performance and pre-recorded music) in Bristol as well as a CD full of string quartets.
Listening to the piano quintet music it made me think of two references, the sound landing somewhere in between: firstly I was transported to the TV drama music of Stephen Poliakoff composer Adrian Johnston; and secondly the signature sound of Michael Nyman identified in The Draughtsman’s Contract that reached its most distilled form on The Piano. ‘Music for Five Pianos’ sweeps away from Romantic gestures more towards much more recent schools of late-20th century minimalism. It’s quite sprawling at times, Springer’s style virtuosic and sometimes emotional. There’s not a great deal of jazz interest (if that’s what you’re looking for... it shouldn’t be an issue) in fact hardly any. ‘Spontaneous Composition’ at the end comes closer and there is a Jarrettian power to some of the solo piano work.
The Rip Rig + Panic Piano Solos is more interesting and includes unreleased recordings dating back to the 80s and a few B sides of original releases. And this album certainly has a more heightened relevance to a jazz listener, meaning beginning with a Paul Bley and Cecil Taylor starting point. ‘The Viva X Dreams’ piano solos again have a Keith Jarrett-like atmosphere to them, and there is a free form anarchy in parts to ‘Restless Energy’. Like Jarrett, Springer sometimes adds in some unearthly vocalisations in some of the more heated episodes. Both albums demand intense concentration and reward prolonged attention. SG
Released on 31 July