All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

10

Kit Downes: Obsidian

Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
British jazz pianist Kit Downes has been previously heard on ECM on drummer/composer Thomas Strønen's first Time Is A Blind Guide album (2015). But in his early years Downes sang in a cathedral choir and took organ lessons. He recently returned to the pipe organ in a series of experimental projects with saxophonist Tomas Challenger, who is represented here on one track: the rest are solo performances which Downes describes as structured improvisations. Intrigued by the creative possibilities of the many organs in country churches around the UK (which are rarely used for new music or improvisation), he made a point of using organs of different sizes: large, medium, and small. Their different properties directly influenced the creative process.

The first part of the set employed the grand three-manual organ of London's Union Chapel. The large scale is immediately apparent on the opener "Kings." Downes uses it to more intimate effect on his delicate treatment of the traditional song "Black Is The Colour." "Rings Of Saturn" features clouds of harmony, with pitch variations created by manipulating the organ stops. As pianist Keith Jarrett noted during his church organ project Hymns/Spheres (ECM, 1976), it has an almost electronic sound, despite being completely acoustic. The big instrument is also capable of fast passages, as the sprightly lines of "Seeing Things" prove. "Modern Gods" closes this part of the program with Tom Challenger's tenor saxophone joining the organ. At first blending like "a rogue rank of pipes" (in Downes' description), he eventually splits off into a rhapsodic solo.

The second instrument is a two-manual organ at the church of St. John's in Snape. "The Bone Gambler" is a meditative exploration of the sound. "Flying Foxes" revisits the faster, rhythmic lines of "Seeing Things," but on a smaller scale. "Ruth's Song For The Sea" is as lyrical as the title implies, and "Last Leviathan" ends the segment with a dense harmonic exploration of this smaller instrument and its space. This ability to play sustained chord voicings is the defining feature that differentiates the organ from the piano: so it is only surprising that Downes didn't do even more of it.

The program closes with the smallest instrument, a single manual organ with no pedalboard (essentially a converted harmonium) at St. Edmund's Church in Bromeswell. Downes plays "The Gift," a hymn that his father composed. He says that he tried the tune on the larger organs, but only this humble instrument had the voice it required. It is a fitting conclusion to a lovely improvisational program. Not really jazz stylistically, Obsidian nonetheless has an expansive improvisational spirit, open to all of the tonal possibilities of a collection of pipes in a naturally reverberant space.

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

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Skip James

Skip James

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

CD/LP/Track Review
Jazzin' Around Europe
CD/LP/Track Review
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

Related Articles

Read Postcard Collection CD/LP/Track Review
Postcard Collection
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Der Dichter Spricht CD/LP/Track Review
Der Dichter Spricht
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Dodecahedron CD/LP/Track Review
Dodecahedron
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 21, 2018
Read The Chopin Project CD/LP/Track Review
The Chopin Project
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Walk The Walk CD/LP/Track Review
Walk The Walk
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: June 21, 2018
Read Grime Scene CD/LP/Track Review
Grime Scene
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 20, 2018
Read "Live at the High Noon" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "Heart Knows" CD/LP/Track Review Heart Knows
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 2, 2018
Read "Esperanto/Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim" CD/LP/Track Review Esperanto/Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim
by Kevin Press
Published: February 19, 2018
Read "Songbook" CD/LP/Track Review Songbook
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 4, 2017
Read "This City" CD/LP/Track Review This City
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 24, 2018
Read "The Future is Female" CD/LP/Track Review The Future is Female
by Paul Rauch
Published: March 23, 2018