The Numberless Progression

Corey Mwamba
NTH
U.K. DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS86 CD (2019)

Granted I was certainly smitten by Corey’s way with the beaters ‘n’ mallets on tracks such as “Alsten” and “Four Free to One” on the Sunshine! Quartet release (Discus 59), but I did have reservations about whether the sonic vocab of the vibraphone could carry an entire c.d. as the principal voice, being a bit of a niche instrument and all that entails. But then, come to think of it, it never put a crease in the careers of Gary Burton, or even Robert Wood did it? NTH isn’t on that particular kind of wavelength though. Even with mixing, mastering, producing and writing credits (bar one), bearing the C.M. signature, this nine-tracker is undoubtedly a democratic group exercise. One good example being the opening “Against all Known Things”. Its breezy themes place Corey plus pianist Laura Cole, double bassist Andy Champion and Johnny Hunter on drums, smack dab in the middle of a swinging sixties continental feature, exclusively peopled by Gauloises-smoking, alienated hipster types. Existential jazz meets the Noveltones if you will… And that’s something that’s markedly at odds with the stately and sometimes poignant themes of “A Door to the Sea”, while “Orison” and “Entwined Reveries” both book a ticket to a more nocturnal world in which atmospherics and mood shifts gently override the quartet’s melodic outpourings.

The opening piano foray on “Situations” belies its workaday title and turns everything previous on its head. Scuttling crabwise, its angular and somewhat fractured approach smacks of Bowie’s sideman/auxiliary Spider Mike Garson, but it’s debatable whether anything so “out” as this was heard during his solo tour of the U.K. in 2019. Engrossing tracks all without a doubt. though as to the visuals, that roofing slate-grey sleeve art does bring out the nit-picker in me and really does undersell the contents by a good country mile or two.

Oh, and being a sucker for obscure instrumentation, I was intrigued to find that Corey was also credited with ‘Beak Flute’ (?). Having played NTH for the nth time, said beast could not be found by me for love nor money. So… an e-mail resulted in Corey kindly replying with the fact that it can be located on “Never a State”, springing into life for just twenty-one seconds; (from four minutes, fifty-four to five minutes, fifteen). Now there’s pin-point accuracy!!

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