A truly beautiful recording.

Clonmell Jazz Social CJS001CD

Harry Christelis: guitar; Christos Styliandes: trumpet; Andrea Di Biase: double bass; Dave Storey: drums

Recorded 24th and 25th January 2022 by David Holmes at Lightship 95 Studios

While Christelis has been a mainstay on the UK improv scene for the past few years, and Styliandes is rapidly gaining notice, this is not a recording which speaks any obvious languages of improv. You won’t find either the full-on clatter or hesitant way-finding that can characterise improvised music in this set. Rather, the mood is stately, sedate, melancholy, and introspective, but also deeply melodic.

This is not to say that there are clearly delineated melody lines; Christelis’ compositions have delicately poised chord progressions against which both lead instruments carefully place sequences of notes. At times there are echoes of familiar tunes (I swear that ‘Zero hours’, track 2, uses chord progression and melody from the popular song ‘Spanish Eyes’ over a slight rumba beat for a minute or two). Even on the more abstract pieces, like ‘Prism’, track 6, where instruments stutter and start, there is an impression of an overarching logic that is guiding the progression of the tune.

In this, and the closing track, ‘Explorations of one’s self inside a caravan’ (the CD also includes an alternative take of track 7, ‘Missing’ as its closer), the quartet balance the desire to generate rich soundscapes with the imperative to steer close to the chordal structures that Christelis lays down. Together with the mesmerising use of effects pedal on both trumpet and guitar, this creates an impressionistic and atmospheric experience for the listener.

The highly experienced rhythm section do more than simply provide the foundation for the leads; Di Biase’s bass lines explore the suggestions of melody that have been left hanging by the other players as they move on, and Storey’s percussion work (often no more than a subliminal rumble or a shush of cymbals) expands to the tonal space in which the music swims. A truly beautiful recording.

Reviewed by Chris Baber