Nicky Schrire – space and time
(NXS -CD-101. CD Review by Sebastian Scotney)
Nicky Schrire, the South African / British vocalist, now lives in New York, which is where this concise album of twelve songs was recorded. The subtitle of this well thought-through, executed, and produced second album is modest, direct, and all in lower case: songs for voice and piano.
She has chosen twelve songs for the intimate duo setting, of which five are originals. The album has been produced by Matt Pierson, who is known for producing records of Diana Krall, Brad Mehldau, and Joshua Redman. The CD is conceived as a whole sequence. Total playing time is around three quarters of an hour. But there are clever twists, perhaps above all the idea to work with – and on the album to rotate after every track – three very different pianists.
The three pianists do sound as if they have been recorded on the same room with the same mic set-up and on the same piano – but their juxtaposition is nevertheless, a recipe for great variety. The most surprising and joyously anarchic of the pianists is Fabian Almazon. By contrast Gil Goldstein is discreet, understated, music directorish and flawless in every shade and every voicing. Gerald Clayton is the elusive, allusive, evanescent one.
An example of Goldstein’s discretion is in Someone to watch Over Me. After a whole minute, an entire verse of unaccompanied slow-tempo vocal, Goldstein makes the most groomed, perfect of entrances. There couldn’t be a greater contrast than the transition to Fabian Almazon in Teardrop by Massive Attack. He punches out a rocky piano line, really hits the straps.
Another delightful, emotionally searching pairing is Schrire’s original When you go, followed by Irving Berlin’s Say it Isn’t So. In When You Go, Gerard Clayton gives candour, the “honest yearning” mentioned in the lyrics, and transports the listener off to the American pastoral song tradition of Samuel Barber or Copland. By contrast the narrator of Say it Isn’t So has left her innocence and the capacity to forgive behind a long time back. This toughie is not expecting the faithlessness of her lover to go unpunished. A different side to Almazon emerges, it’s a sketchy almost skittish reverie, the perfect foil the directness of the emotional call to fess up, the buttoned-down concentration of Schrire’s vocal line.
And there is much else to enjoy besides. A bit of Xhosa in Seliyana by the late Victor Ntoni, and in the final track some well-conceived voice multi-tracking. That title song Space and Time is ear-wormish, with its irresistible rising major sixth at the start of the tune.
Repeated listens bring more enjoyment of its subtleties and variegated charm. One to enjoy again and again.