Bright and accessible yet contains enough subtlety to reward repeated exposure to its refreshing variety of rhythms, textures and moods” CHRIS PARKER, VORTEX JAZZ
“Dorset’s coastline, added to Africa Latina flavours, inspires much attractive writing and cogent, punchy quartet playing” JAZZ UK
Joyous and celebratory...wonderfully unfettered playing” IAN MANN
Philip Clouts Quartet Sennen Cove
Nature has often served as a muse of composers. Typically the jazz musician can spend a lot of life on the road, but it’s often the landscapes or places which we have called home that leave the most enduring memories. In 2006 the jazz pianist and composer Philip Clouts moved to the beautiful Jurassic coastal village of Charmouth in West Dorset. This new quartet recording is, he says, inspired “by the sights and sounds of the area”. Yet the musical language on Sennen Cove adds up to a whole lot more than a homage to these new surroundings; it’s made up from a personal, emotional and cultural baggage that Clouts has carried with him from his birth in Capetown, South Africa in 1960. One year later Clouts’ family settled in the UK, but the ecstatic township music of his birthplace has stirred within his music ever since, as well as opening him up to a close engagement with global musical cultures as diverse as West African (collaborating with master musicians in ZubopGambia) and pan-Latin through to East European klezmer. These influences and more became an integral part of the so-called world-beat ensemble Zubop, a band he has headed since the 1980s.
But Clouts is at heart a jazz musician and on this new CD focuses on a more traditional acoustic setting, that of the quartet. The band features the engaging London-based alto saxophonist Carlos Lopez-Real. He leaves not only the sounds of exuberant latin or lyrical post-bop styles ringing in your ears but also the kind of cryptic grooves derived from both Indian classical music and New York’s 1980s M-Base Collective. Lopez-Real, who has both English and Spanish parentage, has been making great strides with his E17 Jazz Collective in Walthamstow to ensure jazz doesn’t become insulated from its surrounding community. Clouts shares with Lopez-Real this inclusive, outgoing multi-cultural angle on jazz and you can hear it throughout Sennen Cove.
The album opens with ‘Bird’s Word’, a homage he tells me both to “the omnipresence of seagulls, and jazz legend Charlie Parker” though “compositionally it is more reminiscent of early Keith Jarrett”. It’s a typically no-frills, wholesome melody from Clouts on top of a funky, loping backbeat. Listen out for Lopez-Real’s harmonically adventurous, Steve Coleman-like solo backed by drummer Cavaciuti and springy-toned bassist Keen’s tantalising swing. ‘Dizzard Point’ expresses the “different moods of the ever-changing coastline” with a memorably chromatic theme and N’Orleans backbeat preceding another rhythmically natty bit of improv from the pianist. Next up is ‘Three For May’ which oozes that breezy optimism of Spring, with Lopez-Real’s tender playful sax suggesting Stan Getz in places. The Brazilian ambience then continues into the more up tempo samba of ‘Aqua Glide’.
‘Deco’ may have nothing to do with the Portuguese and Chelsea midfielder’s silky skills on the football field but it has a nifty five-to-the-bar soul jazz-inflected groove to die for, with Lopez-Real’s alto pointing to some of Art Pepper’s bluesier moments. ‘Nine Tales’ changes the mood; a processional ballad with Lopez-Real’s wonderful playing of the lyrical melody riding Clouts’ skulking chords. ‘Quicksilver’ points to Clouts’ roots in latin and salsa with whom he has a kindred spirit in Lopez-Real, an associate of Barak Schmool in London’s F-IRE Collective. ‘Arle Mill’ meanwhile, expresses for Clouts “the calm of a colleague’s water mill in Hampshire”. Following an appropriately liquid-like piano flourish, Clouts swings with rhythmic deliberation and a crystal sense of phrasing on a whimsical waltz reminiscent of French film composer Michel LeGrand.
The title track makes Sennen Cove sound like a place of fun as well as adventure with its Afro-Cuban lilt. The uplifting ‘Commotion in C’ depicts “the exhilaration of the surfers in Lyme Bay”. It’s the final track and takes us from these recent inspirations back to the original, with its dancey township jive. It’s a long way from Dorset all the way back to Clouts’ native South Africa. But as this refreshing and most enjoyable album demonstrates, it’s the journey that counts.
Selwyn Harris Jazzwise