Geoff Eales and Isorhythm – Shifting Sands
(33JAZZ226. CD Review by Chris Parker)
As pianist/composer Geoff Eales explains in his liner notes, this is the fusion album he has been waiting nearly 30 years to make, since fronting the self-explanatory Electric Eales band in the early 1980s.
He also explains that ‘isorhythm’ refers to a ‘principle of construction where a fixed rhythmic pattern undergoes a series of melodic transformations throughout the course of a piece’, but knowledge of all the above is by no means essential to appreciation and enjoyment of this fiercely lively, intelligently programmed album.
Eales is a keen and astute observer of the contemporary jazz scene, and he has hand-picked something of a dream band for this project: guitarist Carl Orr, saxophonist Ben Waghorn, electric bassist Fred T. Baker, drummer Asaf Sirkis and guest violinist Chris Garrick. He has also provided said band with a series of pleasingly varied, gutsy but subtle pieces, incorporating telling traces of so-called ‘world’ music (Sirkis particularly suited to these) but mostly drawing on the strengths of fusion music: bustling or anthemic themes, hard-hitting solos, thunderous climaxes, all held together by Eales’s powerful acoustic piano or rattling fender rhodes.
Orr and Waghorn (the latter doubling effectively on bass clarinet) contribute spikily mesmerising and swaggering solos respectively, and the rhythm section is impeccable, Sirkis once again proving that he is one of the most sensitively propulsive percussionists in the music, alert to every rhythmic nuance yet also capable of delivering straightforward punch and drive where necessary.
Eales, a wide-ranging career (embracing everything from work on cruise ships to playing behind the likes of Shirley Bassey) behind him when he began making unalloyed jazz albums in the early 1990s, is a thoroughly mature and versatile musician, and this vibrant album is a welcome addition to his impressive discography.