Improvisation, Jazz, New Music
Reviewed by Tim Rollinson, September 1st, 2014
Wave Rider could be the title of a seventies surfing movie, but in fact this album from Melbourne pianist Andrea Keller’s quartet with strings, is a beautiful hybrid of jazz, improvisation and composition. It is inspired by natural phenomena; waves in the forms of water, light and air.
The strings are a second quartet. Erkki Veltheim and Helen Ayers (violins), Matt Laing (viola) and Zoe Knighton (cello) variously build tensions with long notes, sometimes adding ghostly texture to horn melodies using raspy harmonics. Dissonance and wide interval leaps are Bartok like and rising and falling impressionist style repeated arpeggios evoke Debussy.
The double quartet synthesises effortlessly within Keller’s compositional frameworks. There is much in the way of delicate interplay and Keller often leads with great touch, tone and control.
The album begins with a tense mutable chordal pad from which the piano emerges amid small flurries and sonic gestures by Eugene Ball (trumpet) and Ian Whitehurst (tenor). The track rises and falls like a large ocean swell. Many of the other tracks have maritime connotations: eddies, whirlpools, ships setting sail through to rusty fog-bound boats with clanging bell-like resonances.
The longest track, Patience, features the original quartet. A long slow chromatic melody played in languid unison by the horns is given colour and context by the piano and Joe Talia’s drums.
Much of the album is evocative and descriptive but there are also tracks with rhythmic impetus and more traditional ensemble passages. Illuminate is reminiscent of early Zappa and the following track Mister Music has the slightly odd meter carnival marching feel that Toninho Horta often employs.
It’s difficult to single out performances given that each player is mature enough to serve the music rather than the other way around. Given that, there are great solos interspersed throughout. As befits the composer, Keller’s approach is particularly holistic.
A listening journey in the key of sea.
Wave Rider is the winner of 2014 Bell Award for best modern Australian jazz album.