Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

33

Kit Downes: Obsidian

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
In 2013, pianist/organist Kit Downes, along with saxophonist Tomas Challenger, released Wedding Music (Loop Records) featuring Downes on the B-3 organ at Huddersfield University's St Paul's Church. That recording was moored in an ethereal setting that gave it an ambient, but stately quality and the duo reunited under similar conditions for Vyamanikal (Slip Imprint, 2016). In both cases the music focused more on the transparency of resonance rather than the structure of the pieces. Downes' ECM debut, Obsidian, returns him to the church organ though the formations of the music are often more defined here.

On this solo recording (with the exception of a single track) Downes utilizes organs at three UK locations; London's Union Chapel, St. John's in Snape and St. Edmund's Church in Bromeswell. As explained in the liner notes, Downes long fascination with the organ extended to his transformational wish to play on these different instruments and find a way to have them communicate with each other. Certainly, each has individual characteristics and a unique voice that may be apparent when listening in the context that Downes has laid out.

Downes wrote eight of the ten pieces on Obsidian. "Kings," "Bone Gambler" and "The Gift" have a distinct hymnal qualities, the latter of the three with a dark Celtic quality as well. "The Gift"—which closes the album—is based on a composition by Downes' father. "Seeing Things" and "Flying Foxes" are freely improvised and lighter feeling pieces. "Modern Gods" is the only piece on which Challenger appears and it is an offbeat mix of long tenor lines and bubbling output from the organ; upbeat and ominous at the same time, it is oddly appealing. Challenger co-wrote the piece with Downes. Not surprisingly, given the dynamics of the church organ, "Ruth's Song for the Sea" and "Last Leviathan" emanate with a dignified sadness as does the traditional Scottish composition "Black Is the Colour."

Downes' creative approach on Obsidian ranges from singular spontaneous improvisations to multiple reassembled improvisations, to building on—and around—concepts. A key inspiration is French composer and organist Olivier Messiaen who Downes explains ..."blends the sounds of the instrument to give real form and colour to the performance. You can be both an improviser and an orchestrator in the moment." Messiaen, in fact, rejected much of the analytical terminology of music suggesting that there is only music with, or without, color. Downes has taken that to heart on this beautiful collection and he has plans to expand on his use of the organ in a future project. Obsidian is highly recommended.

Track Listing: Kings; Black Is The Colour; Rings Of Saturn; Seeing Things; Modern Gods; The Bone Gambler; Flying Foxes; Ruth’s Song For The Sea; Last Leviathan; The Gift.

Personnel: Kit Downes: church organ; Tom Challenger: tenor saxophone (5).

Title: Obsidian | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: ECM Records

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Skip James

Skip James

Kit Downes
Label Love Vol. 5: The Jazz...

Album Reviews
Jazzin' Around Europe
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
Catching Up With
Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Obsidian

Obsidian

ECM Records
2018

buy
Such A Sky

Such A Sky

Self Produced
2017

buy
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

Upcoming Shows

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Correlations Album Reviews
Correlations
By Peter Hoetjes
March 19, 2019
Read Schizophrenia: The Yang Project Album Reviews
Schizophrenia: The Yang Project
By Roger Farbey
March 19, 2019
Read Zyklus 1 Album Reviews
Zyklus 1
By Mark Corroto
March 19, 2019
Read Apotheosis Album Reviews
Apotheosis
By Chris Mosey
March 19, 2019
Read Silverthorne Album Reviews
Silverthorne
By Glenn Astarita
March 19, 2019
Read Absinthe Album Reviews
Absinthe
By Mark Sullivan
March 18, 2019
Read Chi Album Reviews
Chi
By John Ephland
March 18, 2019