Pianist/ composer or composer/pianist? Alex Hutton’s album, released on the F-IRE collective’s label, forces you to pay attention to both in equal measure. The opener, JJ is typical. An elegant melody accompanied by a singing, bowed bass-line is given a weird twist by a spooky vocal counterpoint; it dissolves in a shimmer of percussion before being restated over a insistent riff on the piano, then embellished in a moodier atmosphere by a virtuosic Yuri Goloubev on bass. The careful, artful often complex and extended construction of the compositions, love of a good riff (never as simple as first they appear), unabashed embrace of a rocky groove are all essential ingredients of this album. It was only on the second listening that I realised this was essentially a trio album. There are additional vocals and woodwind on a three of the tracks but most of the time Alex, Goloubev on bass and the peerless Asaf Sirkis on drums manage to sound like a full orchestra. It is pianist Hutton as well as composer Hutton. The Legentis Script after another carefully arranged theme gives way to an extended solo sequence, the long flowing, melodic lines and a rolling rythmic pulse driven from the drums combining to raise the intensity. Elsewhere, a tender side and classical touch on the piano are evident. There are hymn like ballads (including one actually called Hymn II) and a lovely elegaic lament, Farewell 296, majestic thundering chords, and out and out rocky grooves. Through it all an attractive melody is never far away. Yuri Goloubev and Asaf Sirkis put in absolutely storming performances. Goloubev gets plenty of soloing space and doubles or shadows plenty of melodies; Sirkis is always doing something surprising, I suspect there wasn’t much overdubbing as I’ve heard him sound like this live but at times its hard to believe there’s just one drummer. This is an album that rewards a few listens; almost every tune is packed with twists, turns and varying moods. At the heart of it is a really great trio giving life to a fine, distinctive set of compositions.