CD review

Liam Noble – The Long Game

Liam Noble – The Long Game
(Edition Records. CD Review by Jon Turney)

How might Liam Noble follow up his brilliant, widely-praised piano trio release of 2009, Brubeck, in which he took a collection of Dave Brubeck tunes to wholly unexpected places? (The intervening A Room Somewhere was a solo effort.) Another tribute to an idiosyncratic jazz keyboard giant? No, this is Liam Noble we are talking about. The Long Game is also a piano trio session, loosely defined. But it’s completely different: and equally intriguing.

All the compositions here are by Noble, and explored by a freewheeling threesome that features Seb Rochford on drums and Tom Herbert on electric bass. There are electric as well as acoustic keyboard sounds, often mixed together, and frequent light seasonings of electronics.

The general approach, as the title suggests, is exploratory, with plenty of slow figures that are elaborated gradually by pianist and drummer. Patience is invariably rewarded. A dreamy slow inensity sometimes gives way to impassioned outbursts that gain force from initial restraint. Elsewhere, the delight is in the detail. Simple chords gradually shift over the length of Between You and Me, gathering emotional power as they go. Rochford’s drumming is somehow as insistent when his touch is at its lightest as when he is at full power.

There are keyboard passages that call to mind other contemporary masters such as Craig Taborn, and some reverberant grooves But this is mainly music of reverie rather than revelation. You may look elsewhere for simple declarative statements. If you value, obliquity, wit, and an air of mysteries about to be but never quite solved, then this one is for you. At the end, on Matcha Mind, the electronic chirrups and chitters may conjure a forest walk at twilight under the influence of a mild hallucinogen. Return to the start, though, and the chances are you’ll experience something different on your next listen.

Coincidentally, the last CD I reviewed here also featured Noble, being altogether more rambunctious with the splendid Pigfoot. Like this equally well-realised project, it’s a reminder of how his subtle musical intelligence and breadth of sympathy make him such a versatile creative presence in contemporary UK jazz.

LINKS: The Long Game album launch is at Kings Place on 16 September.

Jon’s review of Pigfoot’s Pigfoot Shuffle

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney

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