Pinnacles Music PM0155
Reviewed by Blair Greenberg, February 1st, 2016
This project came about after the three musicians had worked together on the De-Classified Music series in Brisbane. After realising that 2015 was the ANZAC centenary, they decided to base their project on letters from original ANZACs. This theme is more conceptual than literal. Singer Kristin Berardi has written all the lyrics, with all three co-writing the music.
The musicians researched historical archives and used the themes of hope, fear, separation, loss, love, and the conditions of war. They also wanted each song to look at an experience and/or emotion.
Instrumentation is piano, tenor saxophone, and vocals, with some extra percussion provided by John Parker on some tunes. This sparseness allows plenty of room for musical explorations and reflective space. There is great rapport and interplay between the musicians, leaving much opportunity for each other to move around within the boundaries of the song.
The tone throughout is melancholy. The musicians come from a jazz background but there is a strong folk influence with its emphasis on strong melodies. There was a real attempt to translate the intense subject matter into something meaningful but not too heavy. They have achieved this with a lightness that is beguiling.
The lyrics are tinged with sadness and longing, based on the soldiers’ and families’ war letters, paraphrased and re-imagined in a beautiful and poetic way by Kristin Berardi. Her voice is very clean and pure with interesting improvisational excursions. My only minor quibble is one I have with many Australian jazz singers, namely that they may be incredibly adept technically, but lack some emotional grit and character to convey a sense of “I’ve been there”, “I’ve lived that”. Having said that, the singing here is quite beautiful.
Sean Foran’s piano playing is very tasteful and provides an excellent springboard for the songs. Rafael Karlin is quite understated on the saxophone leaving plenty of room for the songs, but when he solos, is very lyrical.
Great playing can only be enhanced with great songs and the collaboration has certainly paid off with strong melodies paying respect to the historical themes of loss and sadness.
The album is beautifully recorded and mixed by Mark Smith and co-produced by the musicians. Cover photos by David Collins and design by Sai Karlen echo the sparseness of the music.
These musicians left their egos at the door with this album. Although the themes are based on sadness, there is still a joie de vivre that is compelling. It is music to enjoy anytime but particularly suited for a rainy Sunday afternoon.
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