CD review

Rachel Musson and Corey Mwamba – “What We Said When We Met”

Rachel Musson and Corey Mwamba – What We Said When We Met
(Café Oto Records Otoroku TR069. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

This new duo album by tenor saxophonist Rachel Musson and vibraphone player Corey Mwamba was created by each player recording separately and then putting the results together. This way of working has become something like a standard procedure in this period of lockdown and social isolation, and has worked extremely well on this recording. This is perhaps not that surprising, given that the two have known each other well, both musically and socially, for quite a few years. They worked together quite regularly from 2013 until 2019, when Corey retired from live performance for reasons that are explained in detail in this FEATURE .

During the 2013-2019 period they undertook an 8-date tour in Germany and also played an annual gig during the London Jazz Festival. The first of those London gigs at the Vortex from 2013 was recorded, and is available to subscribers to Corey Mwamba’s Bandcamp site with the title One and Other.

What we Said When We First Met album coverThe title of the new album, What We Said When We Met, captures the nature of the music very well. There are four tracks varying in length from 8 mins to just over 11 mins. The music is very much a conversation between the two musicians. Together they interact to create four discourses that hold one’s interest throughout. At times Rachel takes the floor and Corey follows, while at others Corey takes the lead and Rachel follows; in certain passages they engage in short punchy interactions.

Each of the four tracks traverses a variety of moods from the gently melodic to the more forceful and there is a nice flow on each track. Rachel Musson’s tone on the tenor saxophone is impressive throughout, and she has the ability to move from a series of melodic statements to more assertive contributions. Corey also creates a great sound on the vibes with the use of interesting effects and rhythmic patterns.

It is interesting to compare this new recording with One and Other, their 2013 live recording from The Vortex. The latter has only two tracks, of which the first is quite long at 21 mins, the second is 9 mins. By contrast, the new album has four tracks of similar length. And whereas the mood on the older, live recording is gentler, and the two players create a much more textural ambient sound, the mood of What We Said When We Met is much more upbeat. It is very appealing – essentially because it is so counter-intuitive – that a recording created at a distance rather than live should be quite so successfully interactive.

In recent years Rachel Musson has gained a certain prominence on the UK and European improv scenes. She has worked with Mark Sanders and Pat Thomas to form the Shifa trio that has played gigs in the UK and Norway. She has toured Europe with Luc X’s Assemblée and was commissioned to write a piece for spoken word and ensemble called I Went This Way. Corey Mwamba, by contrast, decided to abandon live performance. Since then he has found an excellent and persuasive new role as the host of the BBC Radio 3 programme Freeness.

LINKS: Download the album on the Café Oto website

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