Album review

Ben Wilcock – ‘The River Tethys’

Ben Wilcock – The River Tethys

(Thick Records NZ. Available from Bandcamplink below. Album Review by Patrick Hadfield)

Ben Wilcock‘s suite The River Tethys is inspired by a series of science fiction books by Dan Simmons, but unfamiliarity with the source material is no hindrance to enjoying the diverse music on this album.


With Wilcock on piano, John Rae on drums and Dan Yeabsley on bass, augmented on several tracks by Tristan Carter‘s violin, the music leads us through a variety styles, from his moving arrangement of traditional Irish melody of The Butterfly to the romance of La Rosita, the fast bop of The Stinger and the free improvisation of Chitchatuk. Some pieces were written by Wilcock and others are from various periods of the canon.

This might have resulted in a confusing mess, but the quartet perform with style and confidence, successfully bringing it together as a whole. There’s a sense of fun in the music too, as they skip from one genre to another.

Wilcock is an engaging pianist and composer. At times his playing brings to mind Thelonious Monk, particularly in the faster bop tracks. On the freer pieces, the ideas flow around the keyboard, the sparse music leading to a sense of searching.

His collaborators fit in, whatever the genre. Rae propels the faster numbers with an infectious swing, whilst his percussive touches add depth and mood to the slower ones. Yeabsley keeps them grounded, whilst Carter brings some additional tone and emotion.

They bring the suite to a close with a lovely version of the standard Star Eyes, a fitting end given the sci-fi material Wilcock is inspired by.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield

LINKS: The River Tethys on BandCamp.

Feature interview about The River Tethys

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