Piano Domini

Keith Tippett & Matthew Bourne

This double album set comes as Discus Records’ fourth and sadly final instalment from avant-jazz piano maestro Keith Tippett, a bandleader/arranger whose back catalogue (see Ovary Lodge, Keith Tippett’s Ark etc), never seems to date/grate and always captivates. And let’s not forget to mention that fractured piano break of his which catapulted Crimso’s “Cat Food” into another dimension. Meanwhile, with a tick-list that takes in releases on Leaf and Foghorn records, alongside collaborations with Annette Peacock and John Zorn, one-time ‘Perrier Young Jazz Musician of the Year’, Matthew Bourne met up with Keith at 2016’s Herts Jazz Festival. A casual remark from the latter about possible duo performances was leapt on and their debut public performance followed at the 2017 London Jazz Festival. After, they performed/recorded a number of dual piano concerts. This being the first time that Keith had played in that kind of set-up since the T.N.T. album recorded on Steam Records, back in 1976.

Aeolian is split into two halves: ‘Studio’ (from ‘The Venue’, Leeds, July 2019) and ‘Live’ (‘Union Chapel’, London, October 2019). The first nine studio pieces are named after certain winds of many nations. From the ‘Etesians’ to the ‘Mistral’ and from the ‘Bora’ to the Satie-esque ‘Samoon’, finger-crippling jazz runs effortlessly shift towards contempo-classical stabs and elegiac lyricism. For me, ‘Bise’ remains uppermost after several plays in which some internal piano plucks and scrapes dissolve to reveal a generous scattering of spectral high-end trills. Magical. Expertly recorded before a reverential gathering, the live disc contains one cut, clearly separated into two movements (“Sympatico”/”Trade Winds”) and clocks in at a stamina-sapping thirty-six minutes. Images and sounds flood the mind in quick succession, referencing child’s musical boxes, fairground calliopes, stray blues licks, a potential Dr. Caligari soundtrack and insistent portents of impending doom. It’s pretty easy to imagine the two of them hammering away in the orchestra pit, while above them, flickering images of criminal beastliness are shown to an nervy, edge-of-the-seat audience. Will Pearl White (a.k.a. “Pauline” of “The Perils of…”) be rescued from the railway tracks in the very nick of time?? More magic.

While not wishing to derail Matthew’s massive contribution in the slightest, Aeolian shows itself to be a fine and fitting testament to a sorely missed major talent in Keith Tippett (1947-2020). And by sheer happenstance (?), it’s a recording that neatly bookends the mighty (in sound and personnel) Centipede’s Septober Energy which Esoteric Records have recently seen to reissue as an attractively presented double c.d. set.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *