CD: Kit Downes - Light From Old Stars | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: Kit Downes - Light From Old Stars
2010 Mercury contender serves up an imposing quintet date
The CD booklet note by NASA astrobiologist Daniella Scalice is just the first of many striking features on this third Basho CD by the Mercury Prize-nominated pianist Kit Downes. Joined by his core trio of bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren (both fellow alumni of the Royal Academy of Music), plus reeds player James Allsopp and cellist Lucy Railton, Light From Old Stars sees Downes really getting into his compositional stride.
With rippling arpeggiations on the piano strings and icy harmonics in the cello, album opener “Wander and Colossus” ushers you into the album's singular sound world in the most beguiling way imaginable. “Bleydays”, a tribute to jazz pianist and major influence Paul Bley, features a monolithic unison theme for the entire quintet and impressive solo spots for Downes and Allsop on tenor.
Elsewhere, the series of tiny, circling motifs in the cello introduction to “Two Ones” is almost Bartók-like, while in the all-too-brief “Falling Dancing”, a solo vehicle for Downes, cascades of notes pour forth from across the piano's full range. The slightly crazed canonic games of “Owls” find the quintet appearing to move in concentric circles around each other, a musical cat and mouse show that is never resolved.
The concluding "Jan Johansson", another tribute to an influential precursor, is one of the most beautiful things Downes has penned. Possessing a hymn-like simplicity and strength, its slow-moving chorale returns us to the scene-setting stillness and silence of the opening.
In this finely drawn nine-track collection, the pianist's multifarious gifts as a writer come strongly to the fore: the meticulous ensemble writing; the seamless vibration between the composed and the improvised; the sensitivity to timbral and dynamic contrasts. It reveals an ear-catching artistry now in full bloom.
Watch Kit perform "Jan Johansson” with drummer Seb Rochford
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
Honouring a jazz icon in sometimes challenging, sometimes thrilling style
Admirably succinct entry point into first five years of Brit-punk pioneers
The Americana roots phenomenon digs enjoyably into his Midwestern roots
Prolific musical craftsman gives a tantalising reminder of his former self
American roots music's freshest face talks dancing, touring and 'dreamlike melancholia'
Listen to the hottest new transcontinental music
A change of direction sees the indie rockers headed for the charts, but at what cost?
Horrors frontman's side project soundtrack Peter Strickland's S&M masterpiece
One man, one woman, on piano and cello, wow Brighton into silence
Iconic New York cabaret singer is witty, tender, and very rude
Brazil's latest big-haired export knocks it out of the park live
Eagerly anticipated latest from a singer who abhors the obvious