Album reviews

Kit Downes, Petter Eldh, James Maddren – ‘Vermillion’

Kit Downes, Petter Eldh, James Maddren – Vermillion
(ECM Records 3880001. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

Vermillion is Kit Downes‘ third album as leader on ECM, the first being his church organ exploration Obsidian, and the second the Dreamlife of Debris album recorded with a quintet including Tom Challenger, Lucy Railton, Stian Westerhus and Seb Rochford. This latest album is recorded by the trio with Petter Eldh on bass and James Maddren on drums, with whom Kit has been working for many years. Interestingly, the group is named by the three musicians rather than by ENEMY, under which they have recorded and toured in the past.

The album is extremely listenable; the mood throughout is gentle, contemplative and lyrical. As expected from a trio that has been together for a long time, the interaction and understanding between the three is excellent, and there are many beautiful passages in which they are equal partners in creating intricate and memorable melodies. 

There are eleven tracks, five composed by Downes and five by Eldh. The final track is an arrangement of Jimi Hendrix”s Castles Made Of Sand. The mood on each track is thoughtful and the playing nicely integrated. The playing of the tracks written by Eldh is rather more upbeat and interactive. The Hendrix track is also quite gentle, but has an attractive groove.

The tracks are relatively short at between 2.30 and 4.30 minutes long with most around the 3 minute mark, or just over. Class Fails, a composition by Eldh, is the longest at over 6 minutes. A short description of how this particular track develops will give the flavour of the whole album. It begins with a gentle drum solo before the bass enters and then the piano. This is followed by a short interaction between the bass and the piano before Kit takes the lead. I would describe the mood in the first part of his solo as beautifully melancholic before it becomes much more forceful in a passage that is full of interesting flourishes and changes of direction. The track closes with the statement of the melody.

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This is an excellent follow up to Kit Downes’ previous ECM albums. It is an album that bears repeated listening to bring out the subtleties of the playing and the interaction between the members of the trio.

LINK: UK distributor for Vermillion is Proper

Release date is 11 February 2022

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