Metamorphic: The Rock Between (2011)
Composer, arranger and keyboardist Laura Cole is Metamorphic's leader, and the member who has the most intense personal connection with the music. The Rock Between traces Cole's experience of repetitive strain injury, depression, recovery and motherhood. With inspiration coming from such a range of life-changing experiences, it's unsurprising that The Rock Between is not always a comfortable experience. But however personal the inspiration may be, the music is never self-indulgent, the group's upbeat and optimistic take on Kenny Barron's "Sunshower" a suitably life-affirming album closer.
The album's centerpiece is the ten-minute title track, which explores a multitude of musical textures and incorporates moments of real power as well as gentler, more relaxed sections. Cole's Fender Rhodes and Tom Greenhalgh's drums are crucial to the tune's underlying tension, but the star performer is undoubtedly guest reedsman Shabaka Hutchings on bass clarinet.
Cole's arrangements of Thelonious Monk's "Ruby My Dear" and Björk's "Hyperballad" also stand out. Monk's tune gets a smooth-flowing treatment, highlighted by John Martin's lyrical soprano saxophone. "Hyperballad" is an altogether gentler song than Björk's own version; taken at a slower pace with more delicate instrumentation and a crystalline, emotive, vocal from Kerry Andrews, it's quite lovely. Andrews is a skilful and adept interpreter of Cole's songs, whether she's producing the soaring, wordless, vocals of "Light Up Yourself" and "Sunshower," or imbuing the very personal lyrics of "The Cloak" with genuine sensitivity and understanding.
The music and performances on The Rock Between have rare strength and beauty. Metamorphic, the band, and Cole, the writer and arranger, have set the bar high for their future work, but this first album clearly shows that they have the talent to reach that bar, and jump right over it.
Track Listing: Light Up Yourself; Two Solitudes; By Lullaby; The Rock Between; Ruby My Dear; Kind Folk Tell Me A Bedtime Story; The Cloak; Hyperballad; Out Inside; Two Feet Fall / Nardis / Sunshower.
Personnel: Laura Cole: piano, Fender Rhodes; Kerry Andrew: vocals, loops; Chris Williams: alto saxophone; John Martin: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Paul Sandy: double bass; Tom Greenhalgh: drums, percussion; Shabaka Hutchings: bass clarinet (4).
Record Label: F-IRE Records