Reviewed by Eugene Ball, July 1st, 2015
We live in an age where diversity is the key to a successful and happy life as a jazz/contemporary musician. Consider then, the challenge for such musicians when the time comes to release a debut recording: How does a diverse player represent her/himself on a single recorded artefact?
For some, the problem results in a lumpy patchwork of caricatures of ‘styles’. Arrow, led by drummer and composer Paul Derricott, have, on the other hand, responded to the challenge with Big Sea, a homogenous album of confluent ideas and utterances.
Big Sea is alive with a vibrant diversity of feels and grooves that seamlessly converge and morph. The opening track, Triple Oh, for example, dissolves almost imperceivably from a burning up swing groove into freeplay with a subtlety that leaves the listener wondering how and when the transition was made. It is this unlaboured plasticity that distinguishes Big Sea.
Vibraphonist Dale Gorfinkle brings a wonderful edge to Derricott’s compositions with his inventive manipulation of timbre, which is no easy feat on an instrument of fixed pitch. Simon Ferenci’s trumpet playing is refreshingly understated and controlled. Derricott’s considerable technical prowess is dished out sparingly with good timing and taste.
Though the album is, on the whole, skilfully written, performed and recorded, it is Folding Water that offers a glimpse of the ensemble’s full potential, as it’s arguably the track on which the players permit themselves to delve into less safe territory. Perhaps an extra day in the studio might have allowed for a greater level of risk across all tracks on the album.
Despite its restraint, Big Sea is an unusually successful debut album. It’s worth noting that Arrow released a follow-up album in 2014, titled Navigator. I for one am looking forward to wrapping my ears around it.