Liam Noble studied music at Oxford University, and after his postgraduate course at the Guildhall, he became the pianist for Stan Sulzmann. Noble was recommended by John Taylor, who had played with Sulzmann, who had played with Kenny Wheeler, who had played with Taylor. Noble then went on to join forces with Wheeler as well as with Lol Coxhill and John Stevens. All of this should stand in testimony to his skills as a pianist. That quality is underlined on this disc, which also strongly profiles his ability as a composer.
As a composer, Noble rows up different streams. He does this articulately and with finesse. Helping him translate the music into an avid listening experience is his band; they understand and they explore, bringing in several moments of delight and surprise. It comes in the tangent, the slight veer away from the line, the repeated motif or a shift in timbre, and it all leads up to anticipation for more.
The band gives the listener the "Once Over" steeped in the mainstream. Sulzmann lets his tenor define the mood and then squeezes out some twisted lines. He is high on the bounce as well, setting the tone and getting some nice support from Clarvis on the drums. The panorama opens to envelop Biscoe and Noble, the former coiled, the latter transparent and lighter. One good tune deserves another, and as they go traipsing "Across the Park" they bring in a rhythm that shifts, meter and pulse in flux until they all lock in to form kaleidoscopic melodic patterns. The blues come in through "The Bathroom Mirror," beautifully structured and played with beguiling warmth. And they don't forget to add a supple beat either.
There are no diminishing returns here (except for that song title) which quite simply means that this is an absorbing album.
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Personnel: Liam Noble--piano; Stan Sulzmann--tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Chris Biscoe--alto and soprano saxophones, alto clarinet; Mick Hutton--bass; Paul Clarvis--drums