Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
4

Kit Downes: Light From Old Stars

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count Views
Kit Downes: Light From Old Stars Given pianist/composer Kit Downes' standing in the UK jazz scene it's rather surprising that Light From Old Stars is only the third album he's released under his own name. It's less surprising when his relative youth—he was still in his mid-20s when he recorded this album—and active membership in bands such as Troyka and Stan Sulzmann's Neon are added to the mix. All this musical activity might seem to leave little time for other considerations, but at least one non-musical interest is key to the development of Light From Old Stars.

As the album's title suggests, the key is Downes' fascination with science generally and astronomy in particular. The cover design, by Lesley Barnes, takes this astronomical inspiration and adds a touch of mysticism. The sleeve notes, by NASA astrobiologist Danielle Scalice, take a more scientific perspective yet still serve to emphasize the mystery of the stars. "Wander And Colossus" reflects this mystery and fascination most clearly, driven by Downes and drummer James Maddren's rolling, seemingly eternal, rhythm.

Not all of the old stars which inspire Downes are distant entities. He readily acknowledges the influence of pianists Paul Bley and Jan Johansson and both get tunes in their honor—Downes is particularly impressive on the jagged and darting "Bleydays." Downes also admires legendary blues musicians like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Skip James—whose impact Downes acknowledged with "Skip James" on his second album, Quiet Tiger (Basho Records, 2011). Their influence is also at the heart of Light From Old Stars, especially on "Outlawed," a loose-limbed tune redolent of laidback country blues which features Calum Gourlay's rootsy bass solo.

Two tunes with ornithological titles inject some engaging eccentricity into the mix. "Owls" finds James Allsopp's bass clarinet twitting and twooing on the cheerfully upbeat opening and closing passages, while Lucy Railton's scary cello creates a much darker mood in the middle section. "The Mad Wren"—which may or may not refer to this album's drummer—jumps and bounces just like the tiny bird as it switches between moods and tempos.

The old stars of the cosmos and the old stars of the blues may seem to have little in common—but both of them have inspired the creation of a lovely, rewarding, album. Light From Old Stars is Downes' most accessible and imaginative album to date, a worthy addition to an already impressive body of work.


Track Listing: Wander And Colossus; Bleydays; Outlawed; What's The Rumpus; Two Ones; Falling Dancing; Owls; The Mad Wren; Jan Johansson.

Personnel: Kit Downes: piano, organ (3, 5, 8); James Allsopp: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet); Lucy Railton: cello; Calum Gourlay: bass; James Maddren: drums.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Basho Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Related Video

  • Skip James
    Skip James
    Kit Downes
    Label Love Vol. 5: The Jazz...
CD/LP/Track Review
Jazzin' Around Europe
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Vyamanikal
Vyamanikal
Slip Imprint
2016
buy
Tricko
Tricko
Coup Perdu
2015
buy
Kit Downes: Light From Old Stars
Kit Downes: Light...
Basho Records
2014
buy
Wedding Music
Wedding Music
Loop Records
2013
buy
Light From Old Stars
Light From Old Stars
Basho Records
2013
buy
Quiet Tiger
Quiet Tiger
Basho Records
2011
buy

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.