Greg Foat – Symphonie Pacifique
(Strut Records. CD Review by John Bungey)
Jazz is of course not normally the domain of symphonies, pacifique or otherwise. There’s certainly a grandness to some of the 16 pieces here and a string trio occasionally pops up but Greg Foat is not sailing in the murky waters of jazz-classical crossover. This symphony (“pacifique” as in the ocean or “peaceful” – take your pick) is a richly upholstered mix of modal jazz grooves and atmospheric mood pieces. Its 20-strong multi-generational cast ranges from Moses Boyd to Clark Tracey on drums and saxophonist Art Themen.
Greg Foat? He’s a prolific pianist-composer from the Isle of Wight who has been recording albums since 2011 ranging from soul-jazz to library music. The title track reflects his love of widescreen filmic drama. Rippling piano arpeggios crescendo over a choir and delicate strings. A fizzing Moses Boyd breakbeat prevents it sounding too much like one of those 1960s “World of Stereo” releases. Foat immediately contrasts this blow-out with the austere string trio chords of Undulation before funky percussion and a gorgeous soprano sax solo from Themen introduce a clearer idea of the Jazz FM-friendly grooves to follow.
You’ll have gathered then that this is not an album for those who like their jazz harsh, abrasive and mystical. There’s wind-in-the-hair drivetime music here that recalls Kamasi Washington’s epic moments and one track features Boyd improvising over a synth loop. Some conga-fuelled workouts are reluctant to stray from two chords and are closer to background than foreground music. But it’s all done with style, some classy soloing and Foat’s love of drama and a striking mood change. Don’t try it on Albert Ayler buffs but your friends with a Snarky Puppy album or two will get this immediately.
Symphonie Pacifique is released on 3 July
Categories: CD review