All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

12

John Ellis: Evolution - Seeds and Streams

Phil Barnes By

Sign in to view read count
There's a temptation to assume with evolution that all of history has been leading to this point, that today's dominant species or situation will continue as such forever. Nonsense of course, think of the changes in the lifetimes of current generations and it's clear that evolution is not a defined end point but a dynamic, continuing process. If nothing else our planet has finite resources, so continuing on a fixed path is unlikely to work forever. Musically the risks are similar, if of a different order, stay static in a comfortable style or genre and you need to have something distinctive or be a whole lot better than the competition to get heard. But the musician who forces changes risks the irrelevance of following the herd too. Better then to take your own path, to do what is right for the work, and accept the consequences in both evolutionary and critical terms. Which brings us nicely to John Ellis UK and his fine first solo album.

As a significant contributor to those wonderful albums by the Cinematic Orchestra "Everyday" and "The Man With the Movie Camera," terrifyingly more than a dozen years ago, Ellis showed himself as a musician who was not afraid of unusual combinations of sounds or juxtapositions of instrumentation. Here the approach is to draw you in with familiar sounds or references, before throwing some inspired, unusual, combinations into the mix. Take the way that the decayed synthesizer and cymbal of "Interlude 2" sounds like the ambient wash of some great lost mid-90s LTJ Bukem production but leads into "The Ladder" with its prominent use of the kora. The synthesizer rhythm is every bit as deep as something on, say, St. Germain's classic Boulevard, yet the clever use of instrumentation takes us somewhere different.

This is a very hard balance to strike and harder still to execute well, but Ellis succeeds because of the love and intensity in the work. Opener "Flight" also uses an analogue synthesizer pattern as a base but builds into something restrained, flowing and rhythmic. Layering birdsong, piano, bass and kora the piece conceivably supports both the literal interpretation of birds in flight, but also a metaphorical freeing of the soul. Ellis' piano solo on this piece is particularly good, a high altitude glide lifted by the musical equivalent of thermal currents. "Unidentical Twins" builds from the opening kora and bells through rippled clusters of notes from Ellis into a gently insistent theme. There's a wonderful optimism about this as if emerging from darkness into the pre-dawn of a changed world or state that is completely absorbing and beguiling.

The project was a commission for the Manchester Jazz festival, where the music was combined with striking visual projections from filmmaker Antony Barkworth-Knight. Some of these can be found on the internet and the addition of the animation certainly adds a further dimension to what was already a visual music. Add to this the Gondwana records attention to detail from the sound quality of the music and mastering to the striking artwork by Daniel Halsall and you have a package of the highest quality.

For Ellis the evolution works on multiple levels. While the global macro level is clear, there is a personal level of evolution in terms of stepping away from the habits and thought patterns that fitted a previous situation onto a new creative path. 'Evolution: Seeds & Streams' emphatically succeeds at both this and the artistic level as a memorable and thoughtful collection. In a troubled 2016 when spirituality and thoughtfulness have been at a premium, Ellis' collection stands out unambiguously. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: Flight; Interlude One; Unidentical Twins; Interlude Two; The Ladder; Poemander; A Bigger Cake; Arrival.

Personnel: John Ellis: piano, keyboard; Pete Turner: bass, synthesizer; Helena Jane Summerfield: clarinet, tenor sax, flute; Sam Healey: alto sax; Ellie Smith: trombone; Jessica Macdonald: cello; Jali Nyonkoling Kuyateh: kora; John Haycock: kora; Rick Weedon: percussion; Jason Singh: beatboxer.

Title: Evolution - Seeds and Streams | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Gondwana Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Lonnie

Lonnie

John Ellis
By a Thread

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
Read more articles
Evolution - Seeds and Streams

Evolution - Seeds and...

Gondwana Records
2016

buy
Charm

Charm

Parade Light
2015

buy
MOBRO

MOBRO

Parade Light Records
2014

buy
It's You I Like

It's You I Like

Criss Cross Jazz
2012

buy

Related Articles

Read Ancestros CD/LP/Track Review
Ancestros
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 18, 2018
Read The Bitter Suite CD/LP/Track Review
The Bitter Suite
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 18, 2018
Read Ornettiquette CD/LP/Track Review
Ornettiquette
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 18, 2018
Read The Astral Revelations CD/LP/Track Review
The Astral Revelations
by John Sharpe
Published: November 18, 2018
Read The Sound Of The Earth CD/LP/Track Review
The Sound Of The Earth
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 18, 2018
Read Return to the Future CD/LP/Track Review
Return to the Future
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 17, 2018
Read "RUTHENIA - Retrospective of Russian Composers of the 20th Century" CD/LP/Track Review RUTHENIA - Retrospective of Russian Composers of the 20th...
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 6, 2018
Read "All Melody" CD/LP/Track Review All Melody
by Phil Barnes
Published: March 23, 2018
Read "For Gyumri" CD/LP/Track Review For Gyumri
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 19, 2018
Read "Man No Longer Me" CD/LP/Track Review Man No Longer Me
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 27, 2017
Read "Brightbird" CD/LP/Track Review Brightbird
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 19, 2018
Read "Elementals" CD/LP/Track Review Elementals
by Chris May
Published: April 18, 2018