Greg Foat - Symphonie Pacifique Music Album Reviews

The prolific British pianist-keyboardist-composer’s work is centered on place, partnership, and circumstance. Mostly abandoning jazz, he crafts an idiosyncratic, pastoral opus.

British pianist-keyboardist-composer Greg Foat has long been pigeonholed as a jazz musician, yet he fits the tradition sideways, at best. Though he studied with UK jazz luminaries like pianist Gordon Beck, and his Greg Foat Group came to renown by tapping into Britain’s late-’60s jazz-rock heyday of bands like Soft Machine and Nucleus, his work’s preoccupation with texture, melody, and narrative had long placed him outside that music’s jam-oriented solo expressions. Since 2017, when Foat committed himself to a way of working more centered on place, partnership and circumstance than predetermined style, the peculiarities in his music have become more pronounced, and his creative output has mushroomed. It’s hard not to hear Symphony Pacifique, Foat’s ninth album in the past four years, as a summation of this period.
Symphonie Pacifique also speaks to another reconsideration of the genre-nonspecific, mixed-use sound space where, for over 60 years, improvisation, composition, and sonic investigation have blended to no uncertain purpose. The album echoes this artful testing ground for recordings—a tradition-free mix of film scores, radiophonic library sounds, percussion records, hi-fi experimentalism, space-age pop, and far beyond. Heady, outwardly beautiful, aesthetically lush, and self-aware enough to avoid devolving into pap, it fits in with music often championed for its wealth of taste and knowledge—and just as often dismissed for its middlebrow pretension. Yet such experiments can also be a well for mental and creative resets—which is how they have seemingly served Foat.

While the Greg Foat Group (2009-2016) was based in electric jazz-meets-rock playing, it was primarily a vehicle for Foat’s dreamy pieces, often reflecting fantasy narratives (2011’s Dark Is the Sun is based on a Philip José Farmer sci-fi novel, 2015’s The Dancers at the Edge of Time on one of Michael Moorcock’s) and filled with an array of synthesizers and studio-centric arrangements. More than a glimmer of Britain’s prog-rock heritage and accompanying largess was on display, though Foat’s tunes also regularly served a soft and pastoral solitude, reflecting the rural and naturalist influences of the Isle of Wight, where he’s lived since boyhood.

In 2017, Foat and Warren Hampshire, another Isle resident and multi-instrumentalist with indie-psych-funk group A Band of Bees, released Galaxies Like Grains of Sand, a new-age-folk meditation about tides. Like a dam bursting, Galaxies heralded not only a new way of working and a flood of recordings, but a diversity in Foat’s music he’d mostly kept in check. Ensuing collaborations—with Hampshire, with studio engineer and Isle resident James Thorpe, with Edinburgh deep house producer Linkwood—were interspersed with “solo” albums featuring Isle locals, old Group members (bassist Phil Achille, conguero Eric Young), low-key Brit jazz legends (saxophonist Art Themen, drummer Clark Tracey), and a set of prodigious boldface players (saxophonist Binker Golding, Kooks guitarist Hugh Harris, drummer Moses Boyd). The records were united not by a specific sound but by an immediacy, a project-to-project fluency, and the sense that, as each moved from groove to texture to rumination, the musicians were there to serve the ensemble.

Symphonie Pacifique spotlights those elements magnificently. It’s not incorrect to generalize the album as a soul-jazz session full of symphonic and studio-built asides—a smaller-scale take on, say, David Axelrod’s kaleidoscopic fantasias that spotlights the personalities of Foat’s compositions and his broad cast of players. Occasionally Symphonie does get reductive, the too-bright tone of Foat’s Steinway driving its more linear pieces from the front, and the album can sound smooth and lightweight, a facile version of the music Foat has mostly abandoned. Yet these moments rarely last long. The handful of string interludes hint at grander ambitions, and the plethora of balearic fusions repeatedly return Pacifique towards a more complex light.

Fusions like “Anticipation,” built on dubbed keyboard chords straight out of Underworld’s rave smash “Born Slippy,” a sweeping mix of strings, synths and wordless choir, Boyd’s rolling drums, and dueling saxophones, which sounds like an update on a Mizell Brothers/Donald Byrd collaboration. Or “Man Vs. Machine,” featuring Young’s percussion elbowing into Foat and Boyd’s analog synth-drums duet, and robo-funking like Kraftwerkian commentary. Co-written with Hampshire and spotlighting a trio of Foat’s piano, Heather Wrighton’s harp, and Achille’s bass, “After the Storm” has the environmental new age majesty of a Steve Roach piece—and is narratively book-ended by Thomas Frank’s almost-solo “Meditation on a Pedal Steel,” which soundtracks its last drops. An epilogue titled “Three Tenors,” featuring the unaccompanied yet effects-laden (and psychedelically mixed) conversation between Themen, David Bitelli, and Rob Mach’s saxophones, is Pacifique’s capstone, simultaneously referencing multiple directions in sound—beatless free jazz, dub, ambient—while choosing none.

Importantly, Greg Foat is nowhere to be heard on “Three Tenors,” yet philosophically he is still in command from the production room, letting the players he put in place magnify its roar. Such low-key involvement marks the best parts of Symphonie Pacifique, and the bright recent chapter of his long career: unencumbered by rules and definitions, in love with the freedoms of sound, guiding from the back. A leading jazz player has abandoned ambition for more unexpected, idiosyncratic visions.
View the original article here
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Greg Foat - Symphonie Pacifique Music Album Reviews Greg Foat - Symphonie Pacifique Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, July 16, 2020 Rating:

0 comments:

Post a Comment