Tara Minton – Please Do Not Ignore the Mermaid
(Lateralize Records. CD Review by Lavender Sutton)
Jazz harpist and vocalist Tara Minton’s new project Please Do Not Ignore the Mermaid is a collection of her original compositions centred around her unique interpretation of mermaid mythology. Originally from Australia, perhaps Minton is drawn to the comfort in folklore and aboriginal stories but her music is anything but comfortable. It’s full of daring, surprising and complex ideas that transport the listener into an unexplored world.
The album begins with We Sing For Each Other where the hollow sound of the soprano saxophone (Tommaso Starace) joins with echoing mermaid voices in harmony. It is reminiscent of whale-song and feels like we are at one with the sea within the first few phrases. As the words are first sung, imaginings of a mermaid community set the scene. At this point, they are eerie and a bit lost and there is a sense that the equilibrium of this world is being threatened. Ed Babar’s bass solo is grounding and homey which is thrown off balance by the mystical lightness of Minton’s voice and the harp. This is what propels the story of the mermaids forward.
The Origin of the Harp – originally a poem by Thomas Moore – is an unrequited love story that explains the beauty of how the harp came to be. Minton uses it as a way to show off the many colours and shapes that the harp has to offer and it is a true display of her talent for playing it. The spoken word feature in the middle, shared by Tom Nancollas, breaks up the verses with another perspective.
Eugénie, an instrumental duet between Minton and David Ingamells on drums, showcases the beauty and the clarity of the harp in such an ethereal way with only soft touches of snare and cymbal to help it float. There are Eastern tones to this piece and it feels almost like sailing around the world on a magic carpet (or maybe the back of a mermaid). Something would be amiss if the harp didn’t have a moment to show off it’s dream-like qualities.
Considering the album as a whole, Eugénie feels like a turning point for the mermaids and the song that follows, Skin, feels like these swanky, confident mermaids are strutting out of the water with their brand new legs. This song is swinging, brave and sexy. Phil Merriman’s piano solo reiterates the freedom that is wholly expressed in this tune. Undine, Undying is suggestive of Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone in style, using the voice as another instrument, though, this time, it’s joyous and striking, rather than forlorn, like it was in the first song.
The title track Please Do Not Ignore the Mermaid is the most astounding song in this odyssey. At first, it is calming and mysterious. Ingamells’ interjections on drums punctuate the story-telling beautifully. Joni Mitchell is definitely an influence here with a quiet casualness to the way Minton speaks the lyrics. Just when you think it can’t get any more poignant, the song transforms into a powerful, progressive rock anthem.The strength harnessed here couldn’t be ignored with even the best intentions.
The final track, Starfish, is fun – bluesy and folk-like. It feels like a destination – with the clapping, it could well be Spain; with the unison singing, it could be a busy pub on the English coast. Metaphorically, the mermaid’s have arrived home – shedding their shackles and celebrating their new found independence.
This album is a terrific showpiece of Minton’s compositions – they are quirky and innovative and while some might think that writing an album around a particular theme could constrict possibilities – her ideas seem as endless as the depths of the ocean.
‘Please Do Not Ignore The Mermaid’ with Tara Minton will be featured at a “Hampstead Jazz Club Presents” concert at Cadogan Hall on 21 November, part of the EFG London Jazz Festival Elements Series. BOOKING