Aquarium – Aquarium
(Babel BDV1195. CD Review by Chris Parker)
John Taylor (who should know) calls this album from pianist/composer Sam Leak‘s band Aquarium ‘a set of absorbing compositions’, and goes on to highlight ‘excellent playing and interaction … intelligent use of space, colour and dynamics’.
Variety and freshness do indeed characterise Leak’s pieces: the album begins with a quietly arresting chimer, almost minimalist in feel, and touches a satisfying number of musical bases thereafter, including Jarrett-like singing lyricism (Leak heads up another quartet dedicated to playing the US pianist’s music), passages of fiercely interactive free playing, splashes of tasteful funk, hints of Shorteresque terseness, etc.
Such a wide-ranging remit might have resulted in glib superficiality, but the quality and commitment of Leak’s bandmates (reeds player James Allsopp, bassist Calum Gourlay, drummer Josh Blackmore) ensure that all the musical territory he opens up is thoroughly explored, Allsopp in particular providing a series of powerful yet sensitive solos on both tenor and bass clarinet.
With Leak himself a more than worthy addition to the UK’s current crop of talented young pianists, and his rich and varied compositions receiving scrupulous attention from a whip-smart, versatile band, this is an extremely auspicious debut.