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John Bailey: Oneiric Sounds

Karl Ackermann By

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English guitarist and composer John Bailey holds a Master's Degree in Jazz Performance but has a background that includes a fondness for everything from heavy metal to classical music. The latter of the two is in evidence throughout the two suites that comprise Oneiric Sounds, a study in the blending of jazz and classical influences. This is the third release from Bailey including Heart Horizons (Self-Produced, 2013) and Black Ship, Bright Sea (ASC Records, 2015) with a considerably smaller group. His namesake quintet on the latter of the two is largely a sub-set of his current ensemble.

Bailey has assembled a collective of eleven members for Oneiric Sounds with the most noteworthy members being saxophonist Julian Argüelles and bassist Arild Andersen. Both figure prominently in bringing Bailey's work to fruition. Other group members include brass player Richard Iles, Tim France on tenor saxophone, bassist Garry Jackson, and a string section of Simon Chalk, Mark Chivers and Nick Stringfellow. Argüelles and Andersen do not play together but are divided across the two seven-track, untitled suites and drummers Eryl Roberts and Richard Kass are respectively assigned to the same two sections.

The first suite is highly orchestrated with "The Large Turf," "Human Trap" and "Oneiric I" all demonstrating Bailey's strong link to classical music. "Grize Dale" is essentially a duet between Bailey and Andersen though the strings rematerialize in a less than welcoming manner. "Durer's Vision," as noted in Bailey's press material, is influenced by the sixteenth-century painter Albrecht Durer. "You Be The Wolf" ends the first suite with the lively atmosphere of a carnival and an outstanding Andersen solo. "White Day" opens the second suite with a distinctly jazzier feel, thanks to the interplay of Argüelles and Bailey. Similarly, the moody "Shivering Sky" gets a boost from Iles solo fluegelhorn performance. "Feelings In Dusk" demonstrates an excellent balance between Bailey's preferred genres.

Oneiric Sounds is as much two albums as it is two suites. The first half is steeped in classicalism and—perhaps a bit too often—dominated by the strings that push some of the pieces to the brink of treacle. The more jazz-oriented final seven selections benefit not only from the ornamental colorations of Argüelles' sprightly, escalating soprano but also from Eryl Roberts' driving percussion. The musicianship throughout the album is first-rate but, at times, too much and too often.
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