The Fall Dance by Maria Chiara Argirò

Release date: November 4, 2016
Label: Odradek Records

Ah, well, yes, slippery thing Jazz. We all have a common consensus what Jazz is, but try to explain it and…well…it’s not so easy. Jazz, however, has had quite a comfortable relationship with prog-rock from the earliest records by The Soft Machine through to the latest long-player by Knifeworld. All draw on this musical form which some find difficult to enjoy. People are, I guess, put off by it because it is such a broad church of music, often riven with complexity; similarly, people are often put of folk for similar reasons – there’s a somewhat prejudiced idea out there of what Jazz and Folk music is. My opinion: music isn’t about genres, so get over it.

Italian pianist Maria Chiara Argirò’s album firmly falls into the contemporary Jazz camp (he said applying a genre), and if you’re able to leave your prejudices aside, you’ll find a very beautiful album that will reap you rich rewards once you get into it. It has a strong, contemporary, urban, pulse that runs through it and, to my mind, also draws on some of the pastoral traditions of Folk.  That it also manages to do this whilst remaining, on the whole, upbeat and absorbing in equal measure, is testimony to the skill of the composer and her collaborators. If you liked, for example, the sheer joyousness of iamthemorning’s 2016 release Lighthouse, or North Sea Radio Orchestra’s charming new album Dronne, both of which fly the flag for new progressive rock (that has actually progressed), you’ll find much of the same to beguile you here in the company of Agriò and her hip young sextet of great musicians.

The Fall Dance has real cross-over appeal, don’t think of it as a just a jazz record, but think of it as a great record. The playing is just superb, Lelia Martial’s folksy-smokey singing is a wondrous thing to hear. Mostly she does a form of vocally improvised scat singing – people are sometimes put off by scat – don’t be, when done well it’s an incredibly gymnastic form and Martial just excels at it. Also, the voice as an instrument, rather than singing conventionally, has a long long tradition in human culture, so there’s something really organic about hearing it alongside such modern and sophisticated compositions.

Rhythmically the album is strong throughout and Argirò is a generous enough composer to let each of her collaborators shine at different points – this in itself is the very essence of jazz quartets, quintets, sextets, etc – all the Jazz greats allow the accompanying instrumentalists their moment in the sun and so it is on The Fall Dance. Listen, if you will, to the wonderful interplay on ‘When The Sea’ and ‘Dream R’, the lusciousness of the title track “the Fall Dance’. There’s certainly some shades of the avant-garde here, a touch of Math-Rock fastidiousness, and the lyrical flow of the music carries you effortlessly down a winding river of sound and exploration.

Writing in her album notesArgirò picks up on the idea of music as a voyage into discovery and the imagination, she promises to take the listener on a journey to “…explore the visions of my night-times and the dream-like variations of my real life experiences…I truly believe that music is about allowing ourselves to be human, to be sincere with our emotions and to discover the freedom to express it”, indeed, the dream like quality of each of the tracks on The Fall Dance is otherworldly and, in it’s own way transportative, brimming with invention and originality. There is, as the composer promises, the compulsion to reach out and explore the form, and expand our experience as listeners. Basically, you have to open your mind, allow yourself to fall backwards and let this music catch you.

Anyway, for my money it’s a totally sublime experience and I really, really enjoyed each and every minute of it. Congratulazioni, Maria, musica fantastica!

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