In his informative album notes to this invigorating recording, British pianist Liam Noble writes that he wanted to create a music in which he and his collaborator, guitarist Phil Robson, interacted as two equal voices rather than as soloist and accompanist. He wanted flexible, organic, mutating rhythmic ideas to underlie the lead players, which is precisely what bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey provide. Romance Among The Fishes is the very rewarding result.
This music produces constant interplay, sometimes through contrapuntal improvising by Noble and Robson, as on "The Butterflies." This is a short piece, barely over a minute, but it is nearly perfect, with the improvised lines entwining seamlessly, almost like musical ivy. Of course there are solos, and the accompaniment often takes the form of commentary, an answering musical phrase, perhaps, rather than traditional chordal comping. Some of the best improvising occurs on "Enchante," with bracing single note lines by Noble and a driving guitar solo, also favoring a single note approach, by Robson. Throughout, the leader plays bracing, spirited piano and Robson either shadows him like a hawk or adds his own clean, crisp guitar voice.
Romance Among The Fishes swings, albeit not in the traditional sense. The rhythms played by Gress and Rainey aren't the rubato swirls or high velocity thumps associated with free music. These performances are certainly not free music. They surge forward with sprightly momentum, ebbing and flowing, but pushed from behind and, yes, swinging. "Enchante" and "Bluebear" are the most aggressive tunes, the former spurred by Gress' walking. On every tune, creativity abounds, echoing with wit and fresh thinking. Liam Noble and Phil Robson are two more distinctive voices in the ever-fascinating and rewarding realm of British jazz.
Personnel: Liam Noble: piano; Phil Robson: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.