Born in Dirt An Din (Mr McFall's Chamber)
Jazz has long been associated with dirt and din, its angst-ridden scores providing appropriate atmospheric backdrops to innumerable city noir and urban crime films from the 1950s onwards, most famously in Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack to Taxi Driver (1976).
In fact, composer-pianist Paul Harrison’s title-track draws from a slightly earlier period, taking its name from a line in a poem about Glasgow’s shipyards (and powerfully illustrated on the album’s cover by Frank Henry Mason’s etching of the construction of an enormous ship during the 1930s). Combining edgy post-industrial synth textures with ominous electronic percussive grooves, Born in Dirt an’ Din presents the past through a futuristic post-industrial lens. Tim Garland’s evocative four-movement suite ExtraPollination, featuring nimble fingerwork by Maximiliano Martín on clarinet, is rooted more in the present day, with Garland drawing on his experiences of travelling along the London Underground.
Industrial landscapes and cityscapes only provide partial inspiration for some of the jazz-infused compositions featured on ‘Born in Dirt an’ Din’, however. Harrison’s other composition on the album, Consequences, demonstrates a willingness to explore jazz and classical combinations within a chamber setting. It’s a formula that Martin Kershaw also adopts in Far Vistas, where a slow-moving, chorale-like melody in horn and double bass is presented against rising and falling minimalist-style pulses in piano and percussion. The track also features a wonderfully shaped and measured solo by Harrison that, in addition to his solo in Consequences, puts him up there alongside the talented generation of British jazz pianists who have made their mark during the past two decades, including Andrew McCormack, Gwilym Simcock, Ivo Neame, and Richard Harrold of Trio HLK.
Mike Kearney’s Phoenix covers an even wider stylistic gamut. An atmospheric opening, featuring swirling sonic clouds on electric piano, evokes ‘Light as a Feather’-period Chick Corea. It is followed by a more classically framed string interlude that gives way to a funky rhythmic groove and bass line that would not sound out of place on a Yellowjackets album. While Kearney does well to connect the pieces in this particular musical jigsaw puzzle, one is left wondering whether such hybridisations are imposed from outside rather than from within. In this respect, Garland’s ExtraPollination demonstrates an innate ability to wed such elements in a more organically unified way. The album is linked by a series of short, characterful programmatic pieces by Raymond Scott (1908 94), providing light relief to the weightier works heard here. Another excellent, high-quality offering from Mr McFall’s Chamber.