This is a fine album that at times challenges the listener, as if ensuring that one is paying attention, and at others has a lyrical bent that is tender and endearing.
Tori Freestone (tenor saxophone, flute, triangle); Alcyona Mick (piano); Brigitte Beraha (vocals on tracks 3, 6, 8, 9); Natacha Atlas (vocals on track 8)
Recorded October 2021
This is a wonderfully eclectic album from this longstanding musical partnership. It has been five years since the release of their debut album as a duo with “Criss Cross,” released on the Whirlwind Recordings label back in 2018.
A lot has happened since then, and the music on “Make One Little Room An Everywhere” reflects this, from the opening title track with Tori’s tenor statement that becomes a beautifully reflective and lyrical duet.
The saxophonist has a big sound on the tenor with a warmth in her tone which seems to soften even the harshest and impassioned cries, and Alcyona’s playing is now so attuned to Tori’s that the music has a feeling of freedom, and that the duo are not as constrained by the material as one first thinks.
“Detachment,” written by the pianist, is a fine example of this as the music seems to have an ebb and flow that takes on a life of its own. The tenor floats over the rather dark hue of the piano, at once retaining ties with it and yet appearing to drift free as if indeed it becomes detached.
The pianist also contributes the intriguingly titled “In The Fridge” where the music is anything but cold. Chilled maybe, as the delightful melody and solos evolve with Freestone at her most lyrical and Mick picking up the thread in her solo.
The pianist has this wonderful knack of saying a lot without using a torrential outpouring of notes, and her playing here is a highlight with a sense of economy that is captivating.
As with the earlier recording, vocalist Birgitte Behara returns and adds her unique and distinctive voice to four tracks. “Birds of Paradise” is an absolute gem with Freestone picking up her flute and the combination of Behara’s overdubbed wordless vocalizing and the pure sound of the flute, at times overblown to produce a multi-noted purr, is a heady and wondrous sonic palette.
Some may remember “El Mar de Nubes” from Tori’s trio album of the same name, and here it is reprised, this time with lyrics beautifully sung by Behara, recasting the tune in a very different light.
The surprise here is the way in which vocalist and saxophonist almost swap their perceived roles with the tenor taking a delicate and lyrical approach to the music, while Brigitte’s delivery of the words gives the composition its angst and a degree of attitude.
The other voice heard on the album is that of Natacha Atlas on “Who We Are Now,” in another composition by Freestone. Here Tori searches out the sounds and feeling of the Indian subcontinent, and the combination of Tori’s impassioned tenor playing and Atlas’s emotive vocals makes for a powerful experience.
Throwing a couple of curve balls into the mix, Tori has arranged the Gershwin tune “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” that sits in stark contrast to the music that had preceded it.
The music swings in a very subtle way, and the two musicians seem to capture the essence of George and Ira’s tune while still injecting their own playful solos into the performance.
The other unexpected but most welcome surprise is Tori’s arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” to be performed as a trio with Brigitte Behara’s voice spellbindingly captivating.
In a beautiful arrangement, Alcyona’s accompaniment seems to scoop up the music, sweeping it along in her wake and in doing eliciting a particularly fine solo from the saxophonist.
This is a fine album that at times challenges the listener, as if ensuring that one is paying attention, and at others has a lyrical bent that is tender and endearing. With much of the music written during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, the music frees itself of such constraints and revels in the joy of human interaction.