Siobhan Lamb – Meditations/The Nightingale and the Rose
(Proprius PRCD 2067/8. CD Review by Chris Parker)
A classical musician with an abiding interest in jazz, composer Siobhan Lamb has a degree in English and Theatre Arts, so these two projects – the former an exploration of various poetic themes involving trumpeter Gerard Presencer, vocal groups and a string quartet, the latter a large-ensemble piece utilising the work of Oscar Wilde, also featuring Presencer as chief soloist – are characterised not only by the poise customarily associated with jazz-literate classical musicians but also by an ease and confidence with their subject matter that spring from Lamb’s discernible sensitivity to literary nuance and subtlety.
Meditations, premièred at the London Jazz Festival in 2007, is a beguiling mix of poetry (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Burns, Emily Dickinson), early-music vocals (Uncloistered), a children’s choir (a touching version of ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’), a harpist (Hugh Webb), a percussionist (Barak Schmool), a string quartet and Presencer, but Lamb deploys these apparently disparate forces with great aplomb, transforming what could easily have been a somewhat unwieldy, cluttered affair into an elegant suite in which the neat, precise but pleasingly ebullient Presencer is allowed just enough space to focus the music, while the other elements are woven skilfully into an intriguing and original soundscape that sets off the poetry beautifully.
The Nightingale and the Rose, a commission from the WDR Big Band and Symphonic Choir, but here impeccably performed by the Danish Radio Big Band and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, also balances its forces perfectly, allowing Presencer to shine, but granting solo space to the likes of Peter Fuglsang (alto), trombonist Steen Hansenand guitarist Per Gade, who emerge from the pin-sharp but rousing playing of the big band with power, grace and assurance.
A rich, thoughtful and absorbing pair of recordings from a considerable compositional talent.