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The Greg Foat Group: Girl with Robot and Flowers

Roger Farbey By

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A lugubrious brass arrangement combined with keyboard and rock steady drums heralds the opening to "Girl with Robot and Flowers (Part I)," augmented by a plaintive harmonica. "Have Spacesuit Will Travel" has a filmic quality to it, and as the album title suggests—a spacey feel, with echoey piano redolent of a John Barry or Roy Budd soundtrack.

Greg Foat's Hammond L100 intermittently recalls Brian Auger and at times even Soft Machine or Caravan, the latter group's influence especially evident on "Girl and Robot with Flowers (Part II)." Throughout the album whole sound is underpinned by an essential brass section, with occasional augmentation by acoustic guitars, both 6 and 12 string—heard at the start of "Girl and Robot with Flowers (Part III)." Though this title track—divided into six parts spread over the album—is based on few chords and a repeated theme, the dynamics of Foat's arrangements makes it all feel much more illustrious, giving the overriding feel of the album one of sheer vibrancy. Foat's undoubted admiration for the late 1960s and early 1970s British jazz rock is evident here, but he's savvy enough to afford it a fresh feel and totally avoids pastiche.

"For a Breath I Tarry," is a quieter interlude with modal piano and sonorous trumpet solo by Matthew Halsall, elegantly recalling the exquisitely poignant sound the late Ian Carr obtained on his solo album Sounds and Sweet Airs.

"Cast Adrift" does just this and interpolates a repeated pulse which effectively partitions the preceding and succeeding sections. "Girl with Robot and Flowers (Part IV)" begins slowly and plaintively with a reintroduced harmonica but gives way to a faster section with soprano sax solo saturated by reverb, but with the tight rhythm section always leading the pace. "Girl with Robot and Flowers (Part V)" retains the faster pace here but with added, albeit restrained, vibraphone. A fade-out here allows segueing into the revisiting of "Have Spacesuit Will Travel (Part II)" that confirms what a captivatingly unique sound Foat has developed here, replete with Floydian space-synthesizer effects as if to underline the science fiction-based song titles.

The alliteratively-titled and synth-spacey "Clear Skies Select Stick" soothes the proceedings somewhat, preceding the equally relaxed piano of "Blues for Lila," probably the most conventionally jazzy piece on the album. As a finale, "Girl with Robot and Flowers (Part VI)" starts majestically, building-up to a medium paced workout with triumphant flugelhorn solo, the track quietly closing the album.

Foat's strength is a marriage of emotionally-charged music combined with a lack of over-complex compositions. The arrangements however, are not simplistic and the whole album is defined by an extraordinary strength of performance and conviction.

Track Listing: Girl and Robot with Flowers (Part I); Have Spacesuit will Travel (Part I); Girl and Robot with Flowers (Part II); Girl and Robot with Flowers (Part III); For a Breath I Tarry; Cast Adrift; Girl and Robot with Flowers (Part IV); Girl and Robot with Flowers (Part V); Have Spacesuit will Travel (Part II); Clear Skies Select Stick; Blues for Lila; Girl and Robot with Flowers (Part VI).

Personnel: Greg Foat: organ, synthesizer, piano, electric piano, vibraphone; Rob Mach : clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone; Trevor Walker: Flugelhorn; Henric Strahl: 12-string guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Jakob Öhrvall: double bass, electric bass; Tony Coote: drums, percussion; Philip Achille: harmonica, tambourine; Mathew Halsall: trumpet; Nils Boren: tenor saxophone; Karin Krantz Duraffourd: tuba; Jonathan Gustavsson: Flugelhorn; David Byström: trombone.

Title: Girl with Robot and Flowers | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Jazzman Records

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