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Keith Tippett Octet: Nine Dances Of Patrick O’Gonogon

Duncan Heining By

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The Nine Dances of Patrick O'Gonogon is a solid gold delight. I have no idea, who Paddy O'Gonogon is or even if he exists outside the minds of Keith Tippett and Julie Tippetts but I'd love to have a drink or eight with him. Seems like he knows how to have a good time.

The record was inspired by Tippett's memories of Irish folk music and song, albeit filtered through jazz and improvisation. I had never thought of Charles Mingus in relation to Tippett's work before until reading the CD notes but it rings true. "The Dance of the Walk with the Sun on his Back" is a blues, tangentially related to Irish music I know but there is certainly a parallel here with Mingus' "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love." Tippett's composition features a lovely lyrical solo from Sam Mayne on alto and a gruffly timbred gem from trombonist Robbie Harvey.

More obviously, the sleevenotes also mention Duke Ellington. After all, which great jazz composer has not felt Duke's breath on the back of their neck? The point, however, lies in the composer's translation and interpretation of the promise inside Ellington's gifts to jazz composition. Take "The Dance of the Day of Observance." Perhaps, the horn voicings here and on "The Dance of the Intangible Touching," might echo Ellington. However, on "Touching" these are Tippett's harmonies we hear and in the acapella horns on "Observance" one also hears the English brass band tradition as well.

One of the joys of this record is its use of contrast. Slow-moving, almost funereal pieces like "The Dance of Longing" are followed by frantically-paced numbers and outpourings of collective improvisation as on "The Dance of the Bike Ride From Shinanagh...." Maybe not as an influence but Mingus makes for a handy reference point here. But there is also intelligent use of contrasting textures. The jig-like "The Dance of the Sheer Joy of It All" precedes the slow blues of "The Dance of the Walk...," the lighter colours of the former set against the darker hues of the latter.

There are some really fine young players here alongside the oldies—Tippett and Peter Fairclough (what a powerful presence he is on this record)—and "slightly older"—Fulvio Sigurta. The rest are recent Royal Academy of Music graduates and a remarkably assured quintet they are. James Gardiner's duet with Sigurta on "The Dance of the Wily Fox..." is confidently weighted and executed. Kieran McLeod on trombone opens the piece, recalling for me several improvising trombonists of considerable stature, most notably Conny Bauer. Sam Mayne and Rob Harvey, I have mentioned already. However, bassist Tom McCredie is another to watch. His cadenza/solo on "The Dance of the Return of the Swallows" is a remarkably mature performance. Fulvio Sigurta also impresses. His fluegelhorn on the ballad "The Dance of Her Returning" matches the tune's sentiment and the imagery of its title perfectly.

Julie Tippetts adds lyrics and her richly timbred voice to the reprise of "The Day of Her Returning" and the album closes romantically with Tippett's arrangement of the traditional "The Last Rose of Summer." The horns float over Fairclough's military drums before the whole band join for this anthemic closer. I simply could not imagine a better ending to this wonderful record.

Track Listing: The Dance of the Return of the Swallows; The Dance of the Intangible Touching; The Dance of the Sheer Joy of It All; The Dance of the Walk with the Sun on his Back; The Dance of the Day of Observance; The Dance of the Longing; The Dance of the Bike Ride from Shinanagh Bridge with the Wind at his Back; The Dance of Her Returning; The Dance of the Wily Old Fox of the Ballyhoura Mountains; The Dance of Her Returning (coda); The Last Rose of Summer.

Personnel: Keith Tippett composer, piano; Fulvio Sigurta trumpet, fluegelhorn; Kieran McLeod, Rob Harvey trombones; Sam Mayne alto and soprano saxophones, flute; James Gardiner-Bateman alto saxophone; Tom McCredie bass; Peter Fairclough drums; Julie Tippetts voice on “The Dance of Her Returning” only.

Title: Nine Dances Of Patrick O’Gonogon | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Discus


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