Review: Metamorphic - The Rock Between
The Rock Between
|Album:||The Rock Between|
|Date of Release:||2011/04/04|
|Label:||F-ire (Proper Music Distribution)|
|Cat. No.:||F-ire CD 43|
|Country of Release:||UK|
|Sub-Genre/s:||Folk-Jazz,Contemporary, Post-bop, Vocal|
|Date of Review:||2011/01/25|
The Rock Between
Metamorphic's debut album The Rock Between is scheduled for release on April 4th on the F-ire label. Led by pianist and composer/arranger Laura Cole, the sextet that makes up Metamorphic also features Chris Williams, alto, John Martin, tenor, Kerry Andrew, vocals, Tom Greenhalgh, drums, and Paul Sandy, bass. In addition, the extraordinary clarinettist and 2010 BBC New Generation Artist Shabaka Hutchings features on bass clarinet in a guest appearance on the title track.
Of the ten tracks on The Rock Between, five and two thirds are Laura Cole originals. 'Two thirds' on account of two Cole originals being segued with two other titles, most notably on the closer. The selection of the other material is certainly nothing if not eclectic. Monk and Miles to Bjork, on the way taking in Kenny Wheeler, Herbie Hancock, and Kenny Barron. However, Ms. Cole and Metamorphic weave all of this into one very cohesive and coherent whole with great panache, it has to be said.
Metamorphic seems an aptly chosen name for this ensemble. The music on The Rock Between does a lot of metamorphosing after a fashion, with melodies and textures changing, sometimes rapidly, one riff building into another, and often thick, at times almost disturbingly dissonant harmonies quickly evolving into something else.
The originals are tightly composed and complex, with frequent use of a variety of riffs and other short melodies worked into multi-tiered pieces. Not infrequently, there is a surfeit of ideas that, rather than being explored, are moved along to one after another. I have to say that all this works very well somehow, but I also cannot help feeling that the music sometimes is perhaps a little too much 'ideas-driven.' There often seems not enough space left to move about with meaningful improvs.
Kerry Andrew is undoubtedly an excellent vocalist, but occasionally one can't help feeling that the vocals are just a touch too much and perhaps even surplus to requirements. Or the other two frontliners, altoist Chris Williams and tenorist John Martin. While technically no doubt excellent, these latter two players can at times become a touch too overwhelming, as when they move into 'high intensity' mode with a somewhat less than pleasing voice it has to be said. On the other hand, one sometimes feels that Laura Cole's piano is kept more than a little too much in the background.
The rest of the rhythm section absolves itself very well especially in dealing with the sometimes quite demanding groove and time changes.
As an old 'Dolphyite,' I have to confess to a particular fondness for the bass clarinet in jazz. Being furthermore impressed by Shabaka Hutchings and his clarinet, it will be little surprise that I was therefore particularly keenly looking forward to the title track of The Rock Between. Hutchings doesn't disappoint and delivers a surprisingly and delightfully meaty solo on his bass clarinet here.
In overall terms though, the segued closer of Cole's Two Feet Fall, Miles Davis' Nardis and Kenny Barron's Sunshower is clearly the strongest track (as well as the longest, by about seventeen seconds) on The Rock Between. This well-balanced arrangement with its spoken word intro soon moves into a harmonically surprisingly edgy version of Nardis, and then a rhythmically complex (if perhaps just slightly overly long and repetitive) 19/8 Sunshower.
All in all, Metamorphic's The Rock Between may not always be the most easily accessible album around, nor perhaps the most consistent. However, I do find this album somehow very appealing and enjoyable, there is something about it that's very refreshing and even adventurous. So even if you do find it difficult to get into The Rock Between, it would be worth persisting with it. In spite of all that's been said earlier, I certainly like this album a lot. There is something there that is just irresistible. And I think Ms. Cole is onto something very fresh, new and original here.
Even if not essential, I'd certainly recommend anybody with any interest in contemporary jazz to give Metamorphic's The Rock Between a try. I have a feeling Laura Cole and her band may yet have surprises in store for us.
1. Light Up Yourself - 3:27
Chris Williams - alto sax
The Rock Between can be purchased (from April 2011):
From Jazz CDs UK
From Amazon UK
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