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Liam Noble: A Room Somewhere

Bruce Lindsay By

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A Room Somewhere is Liam Noble's second solo album: a mix of standards and improvised pieces that showcases this fine pianist's talents to excellent effect.

Occasionally, critics refer to second albums as "difficult." The assumption is that the first album draws inspiration from 20 years of the artist's life, the second draws on one or two years at best. Noble avoids that difficulty by leaving a 20-year gap between his debut solo recording, Close Your Eyes (FMR REcords, 1995), and A Room Somewhere. He's gained plenty of experience between solo albums, with credits including Christine Tobin, Stan Sulzmann and the Randy Brecker English Sextet.

The title is taken, one supposes, from "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" ("All I want is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air..."). Of course, it may also refer to the room where Noble recorded, in which case "somewhere" is at Fieldgate Studio in Penarth, Wales (which deserves credit for the album's excellent sound). Such riddles are all part of the fun—Noble is a seriously talented musician, but he's not overly-serious in his approach. There's his alter-ego, for example, the stuffed toy macaw who shares the cover photos with Noble (criminally, the macaw receives no name check despite a key part in the album's genesis and must remain anonymous).

Most of the tunes on A Room Somewhere are standards. Noble claims that his approach to "Body And Soul," "Round Midnight" and "There Is No Greater Love" is akin to skiing down a slalom course when most poles have been removed and the rest are replaced at random. On Paul Simon's "Tenderness" he's more direct, all the poles remain although Noble negotiates them more tentatively than Simon. His approach to "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" draws the melody out slowly—first just a couple of notes appear, then disappear; next time round the phrases are longer, more complete; eventually he's playing it straight enough for a pub singalong. It is loverly.

Among these classics "Six White Horses," an Americana song by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, is a welcome, if unusual, choice of tune. Noble transposes Rawlings' banjo part for piano, retaining the melancholy feel of the original and capturing its beauty.

Noble gets writer's credit for four numbers, but he's at pains to point out that he "deliberately avoided writing any music for this session." The four are improvisations (in the case of "Now And Then (overdub)" it's an improvisation—"Now"—overdubbed with another improvisation). "I Wish I Played Guitar" is the sprightliest of the four, flurries of notes cascading from Noble's piano as (one supposes) he expresses his fury, then resignation, at his lack of talent on the six-string instrument. Until the day he appears on stage with a Fender Telecaster in hand, his talent on piano and his imaginative approach to interpretation will have to suffice—they certainly make A Room Somewhere a pleasure to hear.

Track Listing: Major Major; Wouldn't It Be Loverly; Round Midnight; Directions; Now; There Is No Greater Love; Now And Then (overdub); Six White Horses; I Wish I Played Guitar; Tenderness; Sophie; Body And Soul; Salut D'Amour.

Personnel: Liam Noble: piano.

Title: A Room Somewhere | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Basho Records

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