Oct 7 2013
Some albums have melodies so embraceable that it actually incites distrust in the user. In a society as much defined by its instinctual cynicism, there’s also the innate sense of knowing when the heartstrings are being flagrantly yanked upon for some easily gained emotional weight. It’s natural to become distrustful of an album on first impression. Time, naturally, is the proof of whether those melodies are superficial constructs or genuine mainlines to the heart.
Kairos 4tet, who already provided evidence of melodic talent with their 2011 release Statement of Intent, ratchet things up a notch with their newest, Everything We Hold. This is an album of songs. This is an album of strong melodies. And like any album of songs with strong melodies, this is an album that displays an unashamed vulnerability, a wistful sense of heartbreak, and a lightness of spirit that is positively addictive.
Your album personnel: Adam Waldmann (saxes), Ivo Neame (piano, harmonium, accordion, bass clarinet), Jasper Hoiby (double bass), Jon Scott (drums) and guests: Ben Davis (cello), Julia Ale (cello), Kate Robinson (violin), Matthew Elston (violin), Becky Jones (viola), Rupert Friend (glockenspiel), Jules Buckley (piano, metal drum), John Turville (piano), Tom Mason (bass), Tori Handsley (harp), Tim Anderson (French horn), Emilia Martensson (vocals), Marc O’Reilly (vocals), and Omar (vocals).
The album eases into it. The murmuring of Neame’s piano and the musings of Waldmann’s sax are so damn inviting, holding the door open for the ear to walk right in. Waldmann picks up the pace a bit, the murmurs and musings becoming fully expressed ideas, punctuated by Scott’s drum work. But even when opening song “The Bells Pt.1” does take off near its conclusion, it remains tethered to the its opening point of liftoff… that simply stated, gorgeous melody. This is one type of song typical to this album.
The album is also typified by its second track. Guest vocalist Marc O’Reilly’s gravelly voice wears its heart on its sleeve for the love song “Home To You,” accompanied by the snare drum of Scott giving a martial undertone to the song in partnership with Neame’s statuesque piano work, while Waldeman’s sax flutters just above the fray. The addition of a string section makes its entrance here. And here, as on the rest of this recording, the string parts are not overdone… thankfully, their contributions serve more as shading and textures, and not the paint that covers the canvas.
O’Reilly contributes vocals to two other tracks. “Ell’s Bells” brings him together again with strings for a brooding love song, and the despairing tones of “Narrowboat Man,” (which also features the vocals of Emilia Martensson) maintains a weightier emotional presence. But in each of those instances, the album transitions seamlessly into a cheerier disposition. The bathing warmth of “Reunion,” a song that echoes sunlight from the lower registers with Hoiby’s gurgling bass lines and to higher climes with Waldemann’s sax, and “Finding Neamo,” which expresses its melody with an urgency that contrasts nicely with previous tunes “Narrowboat Man” and “Ell’s Bells.”
A few tracks, like “J-Hø from the Block,” do present some development that take them out of a proper song structure, but their trajectory keeps them near the center of things, a gravitational orbit, and the tightness of the pull to the melodic center still gives the sense of succinctness that a proper song so easily conveys.
The four part song series of “The Bells” is at the start, end, and heart of this album. Sussing out different expressions from the same melodic identity, it adds to the album’s sense of continuity while also illustrating the depth of the quartet’s devotion to it.
A gorgeous album just brimming with sincerity.
Released on the Naim Label.
Jazz from the London scene.