Less is more – in praise of quiet; Eyebrows, Babelfish, Germans and Danes

Sometimes the most obvious things are only apparent when you look back. Hindsight, you can’t beat it. Listening (yet again) to the riveting Garden City album from Bristol based duo Eyebrow, Eyebrow_Garden-City_Coverit was hard not to reach for the well worn phrase ‘less is more’. It’s a full two minutes into the opening tack Blind Summit before the first steady, but subtly mutating groove kicks in from Paul Wigens’ drums, but a few of Pete Judge’s  ghostly trumpet phrases left hanging are somehow gripping for that introductory passage. Thaw, a full 13 minutes of an arresting phrase and heartbeat like pulse developed, re-worked, looped and layered stirs up emotions and reverie. Its a reflective, inner world somehow rendered in sound.  And then I spot the pattern. I seem to have been thinking, and occasionally writing, the same things about a string of albums recently: delighting in the confidence of musicians to allow simple ideas space to breath;  marveling at how a  a huge sound is conjured from a few well chosen and beautifully executed elements; being moved by intensity and passion expressed without furious playing  or using a lot of notes.   I’m not alone in finding those elements in Eyebrow’s great album, Richard BabelfishWilliams reviewed it warmly here Babelfish have charmed the socks of me again with their new release Chasing Rainbows,  full of quiet intensity, singing harmony and rhythm conjured from minimal instrumentation. I’ve already written about that one. Another quiet gem that came my way was the debut release, Xenon,  by the Eva Klesse Quartet  I’ve reviewed for London Jazz here.  A drummer led album noticeably missing fiery drum features,  instead  it’s an occasionally pastoral, frequently neo-romantic classical  flavoured set of originals with plenty of space and scope for interplay. A loud (but not too loud) cheer then, for the confidence to practice the gentle arts of saying more with less and quietly roaring, whooping and exulting.    Even when there’s a bit more density to the music, it’s EvaKlesseXenonpossible for it to possess some of these qualities, especially when the band has the fabulous Julian Arguelles in it.  A review from Peter Bacon at the Jazz Breakfast of GONE, by Danish trio Bebe Buchanan Tagel, had me searching out this beautiful album on which Arguelles is guesting. The 11 originals are all from the pen of one or the other of the core trio. There’s nothing dreamy about it, with plenty of flowing contemporary  jazz and opening with a tribute to Kenny Wheeler, My Old Friend Kenny (you may be tempted to check its not the man himself when the first few notes Bebe Buchanan Tagelfrom Jakob Buchanan‘s flugelhorn etches out the melody).  This one has lodged itself firmly in my playlists in the early part of this year. Maybe its hindsight, maybe just reflections revealing the obvious to me.  This quartet of albums remind me that less is more and the quiet, inner life we all have in some measure can be the source and inspiration of fabulous music in the right hands.

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