“Among the many moods that Sean calls forth with his music, perhaps joyfulness is the most dominant” wrote one reviewer of Canadian pianist Sean Fyfe’s first album as leader. He has been based in the UK since 2021, and is in the process of making quite a name for himself as a bandleader here. His next concerts in Guildford and Luton will feature top UK musicians playing the music from a new album, due for release in early 2024. Feature by Lavender Sutton.
Sean Fyfe emigrated to London after a long stint in New York City and studying at Manhattan School of Music. Now settled in the UK, he has quickly become a mainstay pianist around London and has started touring under his own name at clubs all over the country.
Fyfe’s acclaimed debut album a leader, Late Night, was recorded back in Montreal before he moved to London and features some of Montreal’s best musicians (Sam Kirmayer on guitar, Adrian Vedady on bass and Andre White on drums). As White mentions in the sleeve note, Victoria, BC-born Fyfe has a “deep knowledge of the tradition, a hard-earned understanding of music’s mechanics, and the absorption of lessons learned from past masters.” It is no surprise, then, that since moving to London he has tracked down some of the best London has to offer to play and record with.
Fyfe has been playing regularly with Luke Fowler on bass, Matt Fishwick on drums and Dave O’Higgins on Tenor Sax and decided it was time he booked the studio to record the forthcoming album to be released on the prestigious Canadian label Cellar Music Group. The album will be a collection of his originals and some well known standards and is set to come out in March 2024.
Leading up to this date, Fyfe has been busy touring and has a few pre-Christmas gigs that will feature the music from this unreleased album. A regular performer at the Guildford Taproom “Growlers and Cans”, Fyfe has the band from the album booked (with Jeremy Brown on bass) for 1 November. Later in the month, the original quartet are playing at The Bear Club in Luton for the first time.
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Fyfe shared some of his thoughts behind the chosen selection of music and a little bit more information about the gigs coming up to give listeners an idea of what they might expect when coming to one (or both!) of the gigs. If you were a fan of Late Night then either of these dates will be a special treat – to hear this music live before the album comes out.
With influences like Freddie Hubbard and Coltrane to glean ideas from, arrangements of Sweet and Lovely and Without a Song end up with a playful harmonic adjustment here or a borrowed lick there. The keen-eared listener might catch musical devices pinched from other arrangements as Fyfe used them to write his own – almost like mixing a magic potion.
There will also be an original blues entitled Skitch and a motif-based tune called Stepping Stones evolved out of an earworm – one of those compositions that you think is something original, until you hear it back later and realise it’s the beginning of something else. With little effort, a small familiar song takes the ‘stepping stones’ to become something uniquely different.
A few fantastically chosen ballads will make an appearance and if you’ve heard Lush Life, from the last album, you’ll know that very little arrangement is necessary when a great pianist puts their treatment on an equally great ballad. You’ll have to buy a ticket to find out which ones he has chosen.
Fyfe is, of late, a big fan of Cedar Walton, and so has decided to not only play all the upcoming tracks from the album, but also include some of Walton’s arrangements too. Of course, fans will get a kick out of these tributes and if unfamiliar with Cedar Walton, prepare for an education.
With such a dynamic programme planned for these upcoming gigs, it will undoubtedly be a real pleasure to hear his new arrangements and compositions for the first time. These two dates will lead on to a more in depth tour of the upcoming album after March next year. Check out Fyfe’s website and previous album (if you haven’t already) for an inkling of what is in store and be sure to get a hold of tickets to his gigs at Growlers and Cans or The Bear Club for the first sneak peak.
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LINKS: Sean Fyfe’s website