Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

182

Howard Riley: Howard Riley: The Complete Short Stories 1998-2010

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Howard Riley

The Complete Short Stories 1998-2010

No Business Records

2011

Veteran British pianist Howard Riley has found a champion from an unexpected source in the adventurous Lithuanian label, No Business. After issuing a double CD of the pianist's one man concert in the capital, Live In Vilnius (2010), it has gone further with a box set collecting a brace of previously released solo double disc sets along with a another two discs of previously unreleased material. Riley revels in the exposed format: he already has at least 11 solo sets to his name, but this collection is more than justified and deserves to elevate Riley to the upper echelons of the piano pantheon.

Born in Huddersfield 68 years ago, the pianist has had a varied career, ranging from the early trios featuring bassist Barry Guy, to piano duos with Jaki Byard and Keith Tippett, to small groups with reedmen Elton Dean and Lol Coxhill, coming full circle as soloist with Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra. What distinguishes his work is a keen intelligence and an orchestral conception, even when in the spotlight alone. Short Stories (1998) and Short Stories Volume 2 (2006) were originally issued on the ESProductions and Slam labels. The fifth disc was recorded in 2008 but has never previously seen the light of day, while the sixth was created in 2010 especially for this issue.

Even with such disparate recording dates, Riley sustains a remarkable focus throughout: his playing is richly voiced and lucent, and his technique audacious, whether shifting from bracing two handed independence to vibrant call and response or single note streams on dampened strings. It's not clear if the pieces were composed, preconceived or spontaneous, but there are few obvious melodies or heads. Instead he adheres to an austere modern palette, somewhere between a more urgent Paul Bley and a less percussive, decelerated Cecil Taylor. But he leavens any perceived harshness with broad hints of jazz, blues, stride and romanticism, all assembled into finely balanced miniatures. His twin touchstones of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk are sensed rather than worn on the sleeve, with the only overt homage appearing at the close of the fifth disc on "Thinking of Midnight," where Riley paraphrases the latter's classic. While it is possible to name check any number of references to do so ignores the fact that Riley has transcended his influences to become a singular voice.

Notwithstanding a marked consistency of tempo, Riley programs to avoid excessive similarity so the warmth of "Think Again," which could be a ballad from the tradition with chord changes and rippling treble register runs, is followed by the arrhythmic stabs of "Geocentric Two." Elsewhere "Hullabaloo" essays a sparkling barrelhouse undergirding, embellished by right hand variations, as the left maintains a tripping bass rumble, while the following "New Winter" could almost be more abstract revisions hewn from the same seam. Ultimately comparing sources becomes a distraction. Even where a link exists, as when Riley explains in the illuminating sleeve note that for the final session he returned to the substance of the previous date to create five longer extended form pieces, it's impossible to discern any connection.

With 74 cuts, most in the 2-5 minute range, it's fruitless picking out individual highlights. Each pass yields different pleasures. Tracks that stand out in one listen are overshadowed by others the next depending on mood. The brevity of the tracks works in their favor. As distillations of ideas, pared down to the essentials, shorn of padding, they encourage concentration and allow enjoyment to flourish in bite-sized chunks. When allied with the unfailing level of artistry it makes this collection one of the finds of the year.

Tracks: CD1: The Opener; Eleven; Liason; Encore; Echoes; No Void; Stretch; Mythology; Branching; Hullabaloo; New Winter; Largo; Played In; Veracity; Only One; Headway. CD2: Short Stories; Dedication; Sun One; One More Time; Axis; The Furthest Point; After Which; Air Time; Alternatives; Regeneration; For Jaki; To Be Sure; Sun Two; Sincerity; Of Now. CD3: Geocentric One; Up And Downs; With Ease; The Gap; Think Again; Geocentric Two; Palmate; Walkabout; Reconciliation; Branch Lines; Head Games; Splits; Concision; Shenanigans; Maybe. CD4: Another Time; No Regrets; Ascending; Still Standing; Threesome; Of the Moment; Reflective Tendencies; Inevitably; Sentiments; Open Question; Hidden Knowledge; Meeting; Hear Me Out; Passing; Roots. CD5: Autograph; Distance; Silhouette; Only One; The Fourteenth; There You Are; Evidently; Related; Moving; Equanimity; Stopped; Reversal; Thinking of Midnight. CD6: Dark On Light; Set Aside; Longevitine; Move On; Composure.

Personnel: Howard Riley: piano.

Track Listing: CD1: The Opener; Eleven; Liason; Encore; Echoes; No Void; Stretch; Mythology; Branching; Hullabaloo; New Winter; Largo; Played In; Veracity; Only One; Headway. CD2: Short Stories; Dedication; Sun One; One More Time; Axis; The Furthest Point; After Which; Air Time; Alternatives; Regeneration; For Jaki; To Be Sure; Sun Two; Sincerity; Of Now. CD3: Geocentric One; Up And Downs; With Ease; The Gap; Think Again; Geocentric Two; Palmate; Walkabout; Reconciliation; Branch Lines; Head Games; Splits; Concision; Shenanigans; Maybe. CD4: Another Time; No Regrets; Ascending; Still Standing; Threesome; Of the Moment; Reflective Tendencies; Inevitably; Sentiments; Open Question; Hidden Knowledge; Meeting; Hear Me Out; Passing; Roots. CD5: Autograph; Distance; Silhouette; Only One; The Fourteenth; There You Are; Evidently; Related; Moving; Equanimity; Stopped; Reversal; Thinking of Midnight. CD6: Dark On Light; Set Aside; Longevitine; Move On; Composure.

Personnel: Howard Riley: piano.

Title: Howard Riley: The Complete Short Stories 1998-2010 | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Extended Analysis Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: December 9, 2017
Read Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 Extended Analysis Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2017
Read Love, Gloom, Cash, Love Extended Analysis Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Motel Shot: Expanded Edition Extended Analysis Motel Shot: Expanded Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition Extended Analysis Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read "Procol Harum: Novum" Extended Analysis Procol Harum: Novum
by Doug Collette
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band" Extended Analysis Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 3, 2017
Read "Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)" Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Grateful Dead: Cornell '77" Extended Analysis Grateful Dead: Cornell '77
by Doug Collette
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960" Extended Analysis Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 9, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!