Reviewed by Gavin Franklin, February 1st, 2015
‘What about the serenity?!’ Darryl Kerrigan’s enthusiasm for tranquility came to mind while I was listening to this disc. Pianist/leader Nat Bartsch drops notes of melody into the silence like drops of water onto the calm surface of a pond. Even when the rhythm turns rocky, as in the track called Let’s Go Little Dude, she maintains her gentle touch. Bassist Tom Lee and drummer Daniel Farrugia are most sympathetic collaborators. Jono Steer, who engineered the recording, mixing and mastering, has done a super job of presenting the sounds of the instruments and Gian Slater’s voice most attractively.
After reviewing enthusiastically a previous release by a Nat Bartsch Trio, I naturally looked forward to hearing this album. In one sense my anticipation was rewarded by Ms Bartsch’s maintenance of the sensitive artistry displayed in the other CD. She shows commendable consideration of the necessity to provide variation on an album and achieves this with the strategic placing of Missing Pieces, the track featuring Gian Slater’s crystalline voice. The final track, Lullaby in Oslo contains the tenor saxophone of Kieran Hensey, the album’s other guest performer. The contributions of both ‘guests’ lend necessary variation to the sound palette of To Sail, To Sing. Without them, the restrained dynamics of the trio might have been too much for an entire album. As it is, the subtlety of the compositions and the prevailing atmosphere of restraint make this a recording that might find itself used by massage therapists as relaxing sound. I think it is too good, musically, to be assigned to such a purpose but it treads that border.
The majority of the cover notes consist of lists of acknowledgements of assistance and encouragement. Many of those named are people whose ears and integrity I respect. This is a well-crafted release by musicians with obvious artistic sensibility. I was not familiar with the Radiohead and Gotye tracks that are covered but their treatment is very similar to that given to Bartsch’s own compositions. There is a similarity about all of the tracks that I personally find disappointing following the excellent contrasts provided on her previous album.