Sebastian Rochford / Kit Downes - A Short Diary Music Album Reviews

Sebastian Rochford / Kit Downes - A Short Diary Music Album Reviews
On a set inspired by his father’s death, jazz drummer Sebastian Rochford enlists pianist Kit Downes, a longtime collaborator, to help him tell a story about company and grief.

On A Short Diary, Sebastian Rochford leads from behind. The jazz drummer’s first release under his own name for ECM is unquestionably informed by recent events in his own life, yet Rochford—a former member of Sons of Kemet and Polar Bear who also works with Brian Eno and Andy Sheppard—settles into a restrained, secondary role. Pianist Kit Downes is the main animating force on an album where the two celebrated British players coexist in a gentle place clouded by melancholy. 

The past few years have brought a spate of solo or duo releases in jazz, whether recorded in the pandemic (Matthew Stevens’ Pittsburgh, Marius Neset’s A New Dawn) or released into a world particularly receptive to themes of isolation and mourning (Bheki Mseleku’s Beyond the Stars, Esbjörn Svensson’ HOME.S.). Rochford’s album—which he specifies is a diary “of loss”—works with similar themes. After his father, the poet and psychotherapist Gerard Rochford, passed away in December 2019, the drummer sat down at the old grand piano of his family home in Aberdeen, Scotland, and began to formulate a creative response. “Music just seemed to come to me, sing inside me every day, sometimes even as I woke,” Rochford said.

But on A Short Diary, sorrow is replaced with consolation, and, in responding to death, the duo also creates a parable of grief. A Short Diary is like a tranquil art-house film, telling a story that’s as much about company—two contrasting voices learn to mesh, rather than jostle—as summoning an artist’s innermost feelings. Rochford finds well-established support in Downes. Both were members of London’s influential Loop Collective, and Rochford later appeared on Downes’ 2019 ECM album Dreamlife of Debris. In 2012, the two recorded a 35-minute appearance together at London’s Upload Festival. But where that duo set is busy and bustling, the atmosphere is completely different on A Short Diary. Rather than serving as a sparring partner, Downes leans into the role of an old friend, letting Rochford’s compositions pass through him with only the smallest of elaborations.

Like many ECM releases, the album’s reference points are drawn from European classical music. Rochford writes chains of stark chords that just about link together. Sometimes, the effect is hymnal: Opening track “This Tune Your Ears Will Never Hear” is shaped like a Bach chorale prelude, with an anchoring phrase that spills out into mumbled variations. Other progressions—powerful, yet disjointed and keen to digress—could be cribbed from Mahler. Rochford’s careful yet characterful piano writing (in a score marking, he indicates that the opening track should be played “like a child calling out into the empty void”) brings out Downes’ tender side; the pianist realizes Rochford’s compositional voice simply and humbly, as a conduit for Rochford’s distinct melodic style.

The atmosphere is chilly, like listening to Feldman or Schnittke; A Short Diary rarely relaxes into a comfortable emotional space, though its mood is consistent in its muted qualities. The midpoint of the album—the gently grooving, Satie-esque “Love You Grampa”—is the only place that the duo drifts into honeyed nostalgia; Downes’ flash of primary-colored chords at the track’s close is as close as the album comes to a positive narrative upturn.

All tunes are composed by Rochford, except for the closer, “Even Now I Think of Her,” written by his father. That song offers another flicker of welcome contrast: a flavor of Charles Aznavour-like chanson, with harmonic melodrama, darkened tonalities, and a clear rhythmic form that both parties submit to expressive rubato. But any chance of a hopeful conclusion is denied as the track, and the album, finish in grave darkness. It’s a challenge to reach the end of a record that turns in on itself at every opportunity, but in that aspect, it’s as honest a depiction of grieving as you might hope to hear.

Rochford’s father might have been familiar with David Kessler, who in 2019 added a sixth stage of grief—meaning—to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ celebrated five-stage model. But Rochford and Downes aren’t quite ready to search for meaning just yet. Instead, they sit in close company, the place where absence is felt most profoundly.

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.
Sebastian Rochford / Kit Downes - A Short Diary Music Album Reviews Sebastian Rochford / Kit Downes - A Short Diary Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on January 26, 2023 Rating: 5


Post a Comment