Album reviews

Andrew McCormack – ‘Terra Firma’

Andrew McCormack – ‘Terra Firma

(Ubuntu UBU123. Album review by Mike Collins)

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Pianist Andrew McCormack has been expansive in his musical excursions since his return from Brooklyn a few years ago, notably with his band Graviton. More recently, his partnership with Ubuntu records has seen a return to the acoustic piano with a solo release in 2020 and now the trio set Terra Firma in the company of Joe Downard on bass and long-term collaborator Rod Youngs on drums.

The collection of twelve pieces has a broad stylistic palette showcasing McCormack’s compositions and some deep roots in the jazz canon with a dash of bebop on Confirmation and lacing of Monk with Work. Brooklyn Memoir has a funky shuffle under the chiming melody, Clementine Dream is an appealing jazz waltz, the marching pulse of Second Circle’s theme, all baroque splendour and dramatic flourishes gives way to a racing even pulse, Somebody Else’s Song is an elegantly wrought ballad, Fake News starts with chordal riffs and develops into a post-bop burner, Better To Have Loved is a beautifully limpid, tango flavoured piece. Engaging forays into different source material are a flowing, even-quavered take on Sting’s Fragile and solo version of Dear Old Stockholm transmuted into a theme plus rhapsodic development.

The trio format leaves plenty of space for the three partners to stretch out. McCormack’s fluency and range are on display with spiralling, flowing melodic lines on Brooklyn Memoir or Fragile, viscerally hard swinging switchback phrases on Confirmation or Work, and glittering cascades of patterns on Fake News.

The drive and drama in this session are a group sound. Youngs is on great form, often injecting momentum and anticipation with the slightest of touches. On Second Circle a faint pulse on the cymbal suggests a surging momentum whilst at the same time, a fractured pattern on the snare suspends floating anticipatory piano phrases; it’s a great moment. Downard is the beating heart of the trio emanating a propulsive energy. Terra Firma is an engaging and varied set from a very fine trio.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site . Twitter: @jazzyblogman

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