Pianist and composer Mark Edwards has spent over 25 years in the music business, working with a wide range of musicians and bands including Chris Rea, Terry Callier, Nina Simone, Daryl Hall and Aztec Camera. In Deep is his debut recording for Grammy-nominated producer James McMillan's Quiet Money labelan album which mixes a couple of original tunes with songs by writers as varied as James Taylor and Ennio Morricone. There's also a cover of Radiohead's "2+2=5" and a heartfelt version of Over The Rhine's "The Trumpet Boy" sung by gospel singer Priscilla Jones-Campbell.
Edwards' piano is at the heart of many of these pieces, but his fellow-musicians are some of the top players on the UK sceneincluding McMillan on trumpet and flugelhorn, Martin France on drums and Andrew Cleyndert on bass. Reeds player Ben Castle and bassist Cleyndert are particularly impressive, but it's a quality line-up all round.
Edwards' "Watershed" hands the spotlight to Castle whose overdubbed reed instruments and bass clarinet solo give the tune a perceptible warmth. Edwards' version of Tom Waits' "Johnsburg, Illinois" is lovelyslow and dreamlikeeven without Waits' brief but beautiful lyric. Edwards' arrangement of Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell's "Superstar" is equally lovely, but Carleen Anderson's vocal doesn't match the innocence and naivety that made Bramlett and Karen Carpenter's versions so touching.
Two vocal tracks steal the show: Liane Carroll's interpretation of Taylor's "Enough To Be On Your Way" and Claire Martin's take on Rufus Wainwright's "This Love Affair." Both singers are in superb form, emotionally engaged and investing each song with their own personalities. Carroll wears her heart on her sleeve, a raw edge to her voice that readily communicates the sadness she experiences. Martin is more controlled, more restrained, yet still tells of the hurt that hovers just below the apparent calm. Edwards is also in exceptional form on both numbers, especially on "This Love Affair" when he contributes a solo of great charm.
Edwards' name may be on the cover, but In Deep shows him to be an unselfish leader who enables his fellow musicians and singers to come to the fore. It's a consistently enjoyable recordingand in "Enough To Be On Your Way" and "This Love Affair" it has two of the most striking performances of 2013.
Enough To Be On Your Way; Watershed; Johnsburg, Illinois; Superstar; 2+2=5; Gabriel's Oboe; This Love Affair; There Is A Hope; The Trumpet Child; Libera Me.
Mark Edwards: piano, organ; Ben Castle: clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; James McMillan: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mark Jaimes: guitar; Andrew Cleyndert: double bass; Martin France: drums, percussion; Liane Carroll: vocals (1); Carleen Anderson: vocals (4); Claire Martin: vocals (7); Priscilla Jones-Campbell: vocals (9).