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Liam Noble: The Long Game

Roger Farbey By

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For a quarter of a century, Liam Noble has been an essential participant in the British jazz scene. Educated in music at Oxford University and jazz at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Noble released his first solo album Close Your Eyes (FMR Records) in 1994. Since then he's played in bands led by Stan Sulzmann, Anita Wardell, John Stevens, Harry Beckett, Tim Whitehead and was a member of Bobby Wellins' groups. He's also been involved in the improvisation and avant-garde scenes, collaborating with the likes of Paul Clarvis, Julian Siegel, Mary Halvorson, Marc Ducret, Mat Maneri and Evan Parker.

Latterly he's contributed to projects with Zhenya Strigalev,Larry Grenadier, Tim Lefebvre, Eric Harland and a trio comprising Noble, Chris Batchelor and Shabaka Hutchings. Currently he teaches jazz piano at the Royal Academy of Music, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The Long Game is the follow-up to his previous (solo) album, A Room Somewhere (Basho Records, 2015) which featured deconstructed versions of standards, some jazz classics and a smattering of Noble originals including wry sideswipes such as "I Wish I Played Guitar." Therein lies Noble's forte, inasmuch as he's wont to incorporate radical stylistic changes at a moment's notice.

The pervasive bass guitar driven beat of "Rain On My Birthday," with its funky electronic adornments, gives way to the serenity of "Between You And Me," Noble's slow-paced piano in reflective Satie-like mood but with a subtly threatening backdrop of bass and drums. The fractured electronics really start to kick in on "Unmemoried Man," a phrase coined by the late neurologist Oliver Sacks. The deliberately plodding beat of "Head Of Marketing" surely represents a musical metaphor for one of the necessary banes of our times, but this tempo swiftly dissolves with the rock-infused urgency of "Head First," its angular chords and bending keyboard notes vying for attention with pulsating drums and bass guitar.

A relative tranquillity descends with "Head Over Heels," but it is dominated by processed keyboards in spectral portamento, whereas "Pink Mice," with its perky ostinato bass line, is a perfect vehicle for Noble's playful extemporisation. The complexity of "Flesh And Blood," sporting a fusion of electronics, acoustic piano and a persistent bass line is both confounding and intriguing, whilst the closing number, "Matcha Mind" with its auditory allusion to "Pong," the first video game, provides a near-hallucinatory listening experience.

The Long Game clearly demonstrates that Noble's imaginative compositions have the ability to be both captivating and challenging, but are never anything less than riveting.

Track Listing: Rain On My Birthday; Between You And Me; Unmemoried Man; Head Of Marketing; Head First; Head Over Heels; Pink Mice; Flesh And Blood; Matcha Mind.

Personnel: Liam Noble: piano, keyboards, processing; Tom Herbert: electric bass, processing; Seb Rochford: drums.

Title: The Long Game | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Edition Records

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