An Eye for a Difference - Music of Michael Nyman
Anybody interested in Michael Nyman’s music should hear this disc. “An Eye for a Difference” consists of arrangements of many of Nyman’s strongest pieces for London Saxophonic, an ensemble made up of 10 saxophones, piano and electric bass. It is a measure of the seriousness of this project that the production and all the arrangements have been carried out by musicians who have had direct experience of playing in the Michael Nyman Band; and that Martin Elliott and Andrew Findon, the bass guitarist and bass saxophone players who for so long have been the ‘bass powerhouse’ of the Nyman sound, are also taking part.
As David Roach points out in his booklet-note, the Michael Nyman Band original scorings may create a more sharply differentiated sound through the interplay of strings, saxes and brass, but the London Saxophonic arrangements blend to a point that you do indeed, as Roach suggests, get the impression of “one giant instrument, sometimes clamorous, sometimes sweet but balanced in a way no other ensemble could achieve”.
If anything, the use of one basic tone colour makes Michael Nyman’s music even more punchy than usual and even less polite through the absence of a string section. The London Saxophonic versions sound at times more complex than the originals, with musical figures that were originally kept distinct in tone colour now rubbing up against each other in a way that I find exciting. The dark, elemental quality of this recording makes you appreciate afresh not only the sheer verve of Nyman’s invention, but his extraordinary, effortless mastery of harmonic progression.
The production values of this disc similarly maximize performance energy, even if it sometimes comes at the expense of absolutely perfect ensemble, the odd hard-sounding edit and some slightly questionable artificial reverberation – although for all I know the latter could simply be the electric wind instrument lurking. Nevertheless, this funky, rough-and-ready approach feels fully in keeping with the spirit of the music and of this recording. So I have a confession to make – and I know it will upset a few of the composer’s many fans – that this is now my favourite disc of Michael Nyman’s music. To those who think I have finally lost my marbles, play this disc at sufficiently high volume and make up your own mind.'