Andrew McCormack – Solo(Ubuntu Music. UBU0059. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)Andrew McCormack has been focusing on his fusion band, Graviton, for the last years, though this solo project has been gestating since before that, much of it having been recorded in 2016. He has played occasional solo sets, though most of his work has been with the Kyle Eastwood band, his duo project with Jason Yarde, and Graviton.
Solo is necessarily different from his recent releases. Much of the material on the CD is self-penned, and reflects a variety of moods – some lively and upbeat, some meditative, some dark and brooding. There are four pieces by other composers, one tune by Thelonious Monk and three classic standards.
I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me is dissected and reinvented; the tune is still there but it’s something new, too. McCormack’s hands seem to be taking us in different directions at the same time. Later on McCormack’s approach is – well, more standard, his runs on the piano fitting clearly into archetypical readings, particularly a touch of stride.
Similarly, on Nobody Else But Me he combines a variety of piano styles and ends up with creating a novel piece. He approaches For All We Know as a contemplative ballad. In the press release McCormack says he’s included snatches of Stravinsky into both pieces, though I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable to pick them out. It does highlight the range of influences McCormack brings to bear on his improvisation.
McCormack singles out Monk as one of his favourite composers, and as well as including Monk’s Wee See [sic], there are Monk-like inflections in several tunes on the album. Wee See builds up from a simple statement of the tune, slowly incorporating different elements, examining the theme from a variety of angles.
McCormack’s own compositions span a range of styles and emotions. His Adagio is slow, thoughtful and mournful. In contrast, Dream Catcher is lively and energetic, a tune to get one bouncing.
Crystal Glass feels finely balanced between the two: from a slow, ostensibly simple phrase, McCormack explores different avenues before returning to the opening theme.
Even in the CD’s slower moments there is a grace and power to McCormack’s performance. The recording has an intimate, live feel about it, as if one were in the same room as the piano. McCormack fits a variety of moods together with some beautiful playing.
(The live album launch takes place today, Friday 26 June, at 7.30pm and will be streamed on Andrew McCormack’s Facebook page.)Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.