Huw Warren – Nocturnes and Visions
(Released on Bandcamp. Album review by Mike Collins)
‘Playing and recording solo is the ultimate challenge’. That’s what pianist Huw Warren said, when he spoke to Gail Tasker recently in an interview with London Jazz News to discuss this new recording. Recording without drums or bass is familiar territory for Warren as he also observes, the sublime Quercus release on ECM earlier in 2017 (reviewed here) is but one example. Nocturnes and Visions is Warren embracing the ultimate challenge and he’s created a thing of beauty.
His playing is an intoxicating mix of visceral and propulsive rhythmic sensibility, with an instinct for a classical touch and flourish in the way melodies sing against counterpoint and harmony. There’s plenty of variety and vigour in the twelve pieces, but listen through and the sense that endures is of a meditative and yearning quality, soaring and elegant melodies borne aloft by rhapsodic textures.
The set is bookended by two Brazilian pieces. Hermeto Pascoal’s O Farol Ques Nos Guia is like an entire suite compressed into four-and half-minutes. Tantalising chiming chords give way to a rich swelling melody that evolves into a thunderous climax. Noturna, that closes the set, is by Guinga, another exquisite, twisting melody flowing around dark, rich harmony. In between, there are Warren originals and an arrangement of a Bach prelude. Pure (for JT) is an overt tribute to John Taylor, a thoughtful, steadily pulsing, piece with spiralling melodic invention. It’s not hard to hear resonances between Taylor’s and Warren’s approach elsewhere for example in the rhythmic, two handed drive of Against the Odds or Dinorwig Dreams, but Warren’s is a distinctive and singular voice. EE is a lilting, pastoral melody to make the heart skip; The Book of Strange New Things abstract evolving textures of brittle chords; Onwards and Sideways another rhythmic workout, this time all steadily morphing growl and thunder; Up There, a tribute to Warren’s brother in law, Jeremy Lamburn, develops a delicate filigree of theme in a haunting mediation.
Recorded in the concert hall of Cardiff University, this is a live, private audience with Huw Warren and the piano. It’s an intimate, very special experience.