He may be best known for his work with Perfect Houseplants and June Tabor, but pianist/composer Huw Warren's own albums are amongst the most precious treasures of the British jazz scene.
Last autumn, Warren gave us one of 2005's highlights with Duw A Wyr. A characteristically free-spirited and well-realised set, the album featured the young Welsh singer Lleuwen Steffan on a collection of hymns sung by proto-socialist miners in the South Wales valleys a hundred years ago, accompanied by Warren on piano, accordion and percussion and Mark Lockheart on saxophones and bass clarinet.
While finding resonances with the songs sung by emancipated, but still gravely impoverished, slaves in New Orleans' Congo Square in the early nineteenth century, Duw A Wyr is at root a dual celebration of Welsh melody and Steffan's simultaneously sanctified and earthy delivery. It's glorious and deeply felt music with a shelf-life that will dwarf many other releases.
Less than a year later, Warren has done it again, producing an album that, sadly, is once more unlikely to receive much mainstream exposure, but breaks considerable new ground and lifts the spirits several storeys. That much it shares with Duw A Wyr, if little else. Everything We Love And More is a collection of fifteen gorgeously melodic and vibrant originals, several of them apparently created in the moment, plus one cover of a traditional Welsh folk tune ("Mil Harddach"). Five of the tracks come in at about five minutes, the others closer to three.
The liner notes list Warren on piano and Peter Herbert on bassbut that, literally, is only half the story. Running in parallel to conventionally played piano and bass are wonderfully organic electro-acoustic effects made on both instruments. Probably, they're overdubbed, but so fundamental are they to some of the tunes that they might well have been recorded first. In addition to the keyboard itself, Warren plays the strings, pedals, lid, cover, metal frame and legs of the piano, creating effects including chimes, cymbals, harp, drums (all sorts), pizzicato violin, prepared piano and xylophone. Herbert is similarly all over the bass. Engineer Gerry O'Riordan (also responsible for recording Duw A Wyr) is effectively the third member of the lineup, masterfully capturing the full dynamic range of these sounds, from microscopic closeups to widescreen epics.
Combining inspired sonic innovation with a lyricism so pretty that sometimes you feel like you're in a fairy tale, Everything We Love And More is a milestone work of quiet genius.
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Personnel: Huw Warren: piano; Peter Herbert: bass.