Liam Noble A Room Somewhere
(Basho Records SRCD 48-2. CD Review by Jon Carvell)
On the cover of his new disc A Room Somewhere, pianist Liam Noble is joined by a garish cuddly parrot. It’s not the most obvious choice of album art; however, it does perhaps hold the key to what is a highly polished and thoughtful solo album. Noble explains ‘I needed an accomplice, a kind of visible version of the internal me – something like a macaw… Playing solo, the only dialogue is one with oneself, or perhaps with the imaginary bird inside that self.’
Noble’s disc covers a broad range of subjects, from standards such as There is No Greater Love, Body and Soul and ’Round Midnight to more unusual choices for a solo piano disc, including Joe Zawinul’s Directions (taken from Miles Davis’s jazz-rock period) and even Elgar’s Salut D’Amour. Yet somehow this eclectic selection hangs together, thanks to Noble’s great gift for melody.
‘Improvisation starts from nothing in theory, but really it starts from memory, a recollection of whatever the player considers music’ says Noble. Especially with the standards on this disc, he provides what feels like a personal reminiscence of each tune, embroidered with his own counterpoint, best demonstrated in Body and Soul and his almost fugal There is No Greater Love. The whole record has a classy and refined approach, and evokes thoughts of Fred Hersch‘s lyrical style.
On Now and Then, Noble uses extended techniques – such as muting strings inside the piano – as well as an overdub, adding a further dimension to the idea of creating a dialogue with himself, and perhaps also giving a gentle nod to Bill Evans’s great Conversations with Myself. These delicate modernist textures then lead us in a completely different direction, as Noble plays a cover of Gillian Welch’s Six White Horses, a melancholic country classic.
Noble’s first solo record for 20 years is virtuosic and inventively programmed, yet also reflective and elegant. We’re lucky to listen in on this dialogue; hopefully the imaginary macaw won’t mind.