CD review

Alabaster Deplume – “To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1”

Alabaster Deplume – To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1
(International Anthem IARC0030.  Formats available below. Review by Adam Sieff)

Albaster DePlume is a spoken word artist, writer, saxophonist and bandleader. My first introduction was through his ‘Realistic Behaviour’ programme on Worldwide FM, where he introduces musicians from different backgrounds to play together and develop music live on air. This show is a development of his monthly ‘Peach’ concert series combining music and theatre originally established at London’s Total Refreshment Centre where he’s a studio resident.

To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 is a new departure as all his previous records feature his poetry and singing performances. This is a collection of nine instrumental pieces taken from the three albums that preceded his 2018 critical breakthrough Corner of a Sphere, plus two new compositions recorded last year at the Total Refreshment Centre. There are four songs from Copernicus (Manchester 2012), one from The Jester (Bristol, 2013), and four from Peach (Antwerp/Manchester/London, 2015).

The album is being co-released by Total Refreshment Centre, micro Hebridean indie label Lost Map (Eigg) and, crucially, by International Anthem, the Chicago-based ‘boundary defying’ label that’s also home to drummer/producer Makaya McCraven, bassist Junius Paul and guitarist Jeff Parker and a supporter of the jazz non-profit Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

DePlume (aka Angus Fairburn) met the Cy and Lee of the album’s title while working for the Manchester charity Ordinary Lifestyles, which supports people with learning disabilities, helping them live in their own homes. Together they made up melodies and tunes which were later used as the starting points for each composition. DePlume says: “We made these things to help each other be calm. Three labels and I have collected them together, in case they might do you good.”

The beautiful Winter Hibiscus cover art by Raimund Wong sets the scene perfectly – the music is serene, delicate, cool and harmonious, spacious, gently orchestrated and with strong Japanese and Celtic folk themes. DePlume’s solo saxophone carries the melodies, and his tremulous and expressive vibrato takes on the identities of a number of different eastern and African instruments. The music works best for me is when at its simplest and most focused, such as on the opener Visit Croatia and the lilting Whisky Story Time. The two newly-recorded tracks What’s Missing and The Lucky Ones featuring Sarathay Korwar and Dan ‘Danalogue’ Leavers (The Comet is Coming), are two of the more adventurous pieces, but the closing section of The Lucky Ones reprises a gorgeous Japanese theme that stays with you long after the song is over.

I can imagine many people using this music as a balm for difficult times, as DePlume intended. It has been conceived and performed for all the right reasons, and for that alone deserves to be heard so that you can make up your own mind. But there’s no doubt there will be much more to come from this original, inspirational and multi-talented artist.

Live Shows:
14 Feb 2020 – Saint James the Great/ Church of Sound London
29 Feb 2020 – The Hot Tin, Faversham
21 Mar 2020 – West Hill Hall, Brighton
10 Apr 2020 – The Goods Shed, Stroud
21 June 2020 – York

Formats available: Winter Hibiscus Coloured Vinyl/Black Vinyl/CD/Digital
Release date: February 28, 2020

LINKS: alabasterdeplume.com
https://alabasterdeplume.bandcamp.com/album/to-cy-lee-instrumentals-vol-1
https://intlanthem.bandcamp.com

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