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Tom Arthurs and Richard Fairhurst: Postcards From Pushkin

Bruce Lindsay By

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Trumpeter Tom Arthurs wrote the music for Postcards From Pushkin in 2009, according to his liner notes, "in a moment of particular calm and reflection" when he was a BBC New Generation Artist. Inspired by the works of the Russian poet and author Alexandr Pushkin (1799-1837), Arthurs and his musical collaborator, pianist Richard Fairhurst (of The Hungry Ants and Triptych), recorded the album later that year. Arthur's warm, rich, flugelhorn sound and Fairhurst's delicate, understated, piano combine to create music that is both restrained and affecting. It reflects the romance of Pushkin's poems but also the underlying pathos and occasional darkness.

On their previous album, Mesmer (Babel 2007), the duo shared writing credits. This time around Arthurs composed all of the tunes, but Fairhurst's contribution as a player deserves equal credit. As this album demonstrates, the pairing of flugelhorn and piano should be far more popular than it is.

Arthurs' unaccompanied performance, helpfully entitled "Solo," is a spacious and reflective piece characterized by emotional intensity rather than dramatic technical flourishes. It is a strong counter-argument to Arthurs' enigmatically ambiguous statement in the liner notes that "The trumpet solo has no poetry." Fairhurst's own solo piece, "The Judge," is even more spacious—the repeated short figure creates a hypnotic and oddly unsettling impact. When Arthurs and Fairhurst perform together they still retain this sense of space, creating a mood through interactions that never get cluttered or oppositional. The results range from the downbeat, pessimistic feel of "Darkness" to the gentle romance of "Given Up."

Arthurs and Fairhurst recorded Postcards From Pushkin in St Giles, Cripplegate, a medieval church within London's Barbican regularly used as a concert venue—its organ was featured on Rick Wakeman's The Six Wives Of Henry VIII (A&M, 1973). The building's acoustics are at the heart of the album's exceptionally clear and pure sound. Lydia Polzer's lovely photographs and cover design capture and reflect the quiet beauty of the music. Her artistry joins with Arthurs' and Fairhurst's musical creativity to ensure that Postcards From Pushkin is a visual, as well as an aural feast.

Track Listing: The Flirt; Given Up; Silence; Solo; The Judge; Darkness; Half-Milord.

Personnel: Tom Arthurs: flugelhorn; Richard Fairhurst: piano.

Title: Postcards From Pushkin | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Babel Label


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