Mar 31 2014
There is a weightiness to the ambient jazz expressionism of Indian Summer, the new release by pianist Graham Richards and guitarist Dan Duval, that makes for the most enthralling experience. These are contemplative tunes that balance the serenity of patient drones, slowly unfolding melodies, and the murmur of percussion against elements like surging tides of intensity, harmonies burgeoning with an enfolding warmth, and improvisations that take an enchantingly circuitous route back to a guiding theme.
Richards’ strongest contributions to the album are pensive statements of confident melodies like on title track “Indian Summer” and “Harmony’s Bird Song,” but perhaps the high water marks of his piano are on tracks like “Career Alcoholic,” when he strings notes together with a glittering brilliance that becomes increasingly diffuse, the beginning and end of notes magnificently indistinguishable, like the conflagration of starlight in a vacuum of darkness.
Duval’s best moments are when he tills the soil of a small patch of melodic field. “Hallelujah” sees him winding and unwinding, twisting and turning the melody over and over, and “Indian Summer” has him running tight circles around piano, comping fragments of the original statement of melody. There’s also “Patsy,” where Duval effects a surge in intensity, but bookends his solo with peaceful expressions for points of comparison.
Stephen Pancerev and Bill Athens round out the quartet on drums and bass. Pancerev is decisively effective with the rustle of drums and the gentle crash of cymbals, accentuating both the album’s abiding serenity as well as the life teeming within. Athens has a nifty solo on “Patsy,” his darker tones and active chatter make for a nice contrast.
Sounds of nature are spread throughout the recording.. the chirping of crickets, the gurgling of a stream… adding to the ambient landscape without becoming distracting or cliche. Two guests sit in, on cello and brass, with “Binh Minh” a lovely example of the contribution of the former and “Harmony’s Bird Song” of the latter guest.
Just an enchanting album, the kind absolutely perfect for when the sun begins to rise or those quiet moments of the evening when a hush falls over the entire city.
Your album personnel: Graham Richards (piano), Dan Duval (guitar), Bill Athens (bass), Stephen Pancerev (drums), and guests: Justin Kagan (cello) and Dave Richards (trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, piccolo trumpet, recorder).
Released on PJCE Records.
Jazz from the Portland, Oregon scene.