Emma Rawicz – Chroma
(ACT CD 9973-2. Album review by Jon Turney)
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Saxophonist Emma Rawicz’s second CD release, her debut on the ACT label, is an impressively accomplished affair, bristling with the self-confidence indicated by the simple note: “music composed, arranged and produced by Emma Rawicz”.
The production brings together a starry quintet featuring Ivo Neame on keys, Ant Law’s guitar, Conor Chaplin on bass and beautifully integrated drumming from Asaf Sirkis. Rawicz’s contemporary Immy Churchill contributes wordless vocals on several tracks, in a fashion reminiscent of Pepi Lemer in Jeff Clyne’s Turning Point long ago.
You’d doubt that she’s referencing that band, but there’s a jazz-rock feel to some of the pieces. All but one are named after colour shades, inspired by Rawicz’s own synaesthesia, although this doesn’t matter especially to the non-synaesthete listener. Phlox opens with some percussive vocal from Sirkis leading to what could well be a ‘70s jazz-rock riff, soon overtaken by vigorous exchanges between tenor sax and guitar and a cooler electric piano solo. There follows one of three brief takes on Xanadu, the first one appealingly dreamy, before a muted guitar rhythm a la Lionel Loueke leads into Rangwali, which uses Churchill’s voice against Rawicz on bass clarinet. At nine minutes it’s the longest track on an album that runs just over 40, and sustains interest well.
Some of the other pieces are just a touch bland, though the ballad Middle Ground is redeeemd by Neame’s and Rawicz’s contributions and the closer, Falu, by another impressive sax solo. Viridian, another longer cut, feels a stronger piece of writing, and its changing moods display the whole band to good effect.
This album certainly shows promise fulfilled on the part of the young leader. For me, though, she is still at a stage where measuring up to one or two strong compositions from the contemporary jazz repertoire would be welcome in a set like this. Rawicz focussing exclusively on her own creations is still interesting, and she is served exceptionally well by her band here, but perhaps this side of her work still needs to develop to be consistently convincing.