A Suite of Music by Sandy Evans
Sandy Evans: soprano & tenor saxophone
Steve Elphick: double bass
Alon Ilsar: airsticks & drums
Satsuki Odamura: koto & bass koto
Adrian Sherriff: bass trombone
Bobby Singh: tabla
$23 (Australian dollars)
|The essential ingredients for this CD: Sandy Evans loving the dawn photos taken in Shoalhaven Gorge by Belinda Webster in the early 2000s; A supporter in Tasmania offering to fund the project; Sandy writing some amazing music to be heard with the photos; an eclectic group of friends agree to play and record this music.|
What you have is a suite of duos interspersed with Alon Ilsar's groundbreaking sonic wizardry. A brilliant sense of time and place in the music; superb performances.
This would have to be one of the most intriguing musical releases on CD in Australia so far this century!
|Rock Water Temple||Satsuki Odamura, Sandy Evans|
|Lake Yarrunga Morning Mist||Sandy Evans, Bobby Singh|
|Cliff Edge ||Alon Ilsar|
|Dasavatara||Adrian Sherriff, Sandy Evans|
|Blue Gorge||Alon Ilsar|
|Curved Tree||Satsuki Odamura|
|Tree Tangle||Steve Elphick, Sandy Evans|
|Rock Warrior||Adrian Sherriff, Sandy Evans|
|Lake Yarrunga Colours||Satsuki Odamura, Sandy Evans|
|Rock Warrior 2||Bobby Singh, Sandy Evans|
|Lake Yarrunga||Steve Elphick, Sandy Evans|
|Sandy Evans is a highly accomplished and lauded saxophonist, composer and scholar who recently received the Vice Chancellor’s Commendation for Excellence for her PhD studies. She is the recipient of a range of other accolades including three ARIAS, an APRA award, an Australian Jazz Musician of the Year award, a suite of fellowships and an OAM. She has performed with a massive range of renowned instrumentalists, contributed to forty CDs, and to a plethora of jazz festivals.|
And yet, musically, on this, her latest venture, there is such awareness and respect of other, such an arena provided for her musical colleagues’ own expressions that the resulting music becomes a wonderful consideration of temporality and space. It needs to be in order to evoke Belinda Webster’s photographs of Shoalhaven Gorge, the impetus for the album. The images are of stillness, of complexity, of nature’s homage to symmetry through reflection, magically captured here, of light and dark, of organism, old, new and the awesome beauty of the environment. One only wishes that the images were within a vinyl placement where they could be magnified or, alternatively there could be a link to a web page where their full majesty could be appreciated.
With the imagery as the stimulus, it is no surprise that many of the pieces are duets. They offer interplays between thematic symmetric riffs and the freedom of improvisation to explore the different nooks and crannies of earth and its relationship with water, two utterly diverse and yet symbiotic mediums and this is absolutely what comes through across the entire album.
Musically, Odamura and Evans understand each other just so well and Rock Water Temple is a prime example of Evans allowing the koto to go where it will while she bends extended tones on alto sax into a shakuhachi-like complement. Every sound is precious in this scape that has such consideration for placement, complexity and sparseness and draws one into a world of contemplation. One must see the image that is the inspiration for this piece. Webster has swivelled a landscape image into a portrait presentation which could easily be an icon of the God of some lost civilisation. A similar ethereality is captured in Lake Yarrunga Colours where Odamura combines a traditional modal openness with her own inventiveness. Again Evans provides spaced, long, considered notes within this modality.
Bobby Singh offers an utterly contrasting vista to Odamura with Evans onLake Yarrunga Morning Mist. The rapid rhythm established by Singh on tabla is contrasted by long, long echoing tones on saxophone that gradually get closer to the mic so that one’s perception of the balance between the two players is constantly challenged. From the established evenly spaced notes on tabla, gradually single notes emerge and Evans and Singh allow each other to extemporise with incredible virtuosity. But more like Lake Yarrunga Colours, Rack Warrior 2 draws on traditional North Indian conventions with Evans improvising on a raga and the tabla more an accompanying instrument here.
You need to watch the linked video to Alon Ilsar’s AirSticks and their incredible capabilities to understand his creative interpretation of Cliff Edge where the texture of massive rocks are vaguely morphed in their reflection in the still waters beneath. Ilsar captures the awesomeness of the rocks and a kind of ‘this is just the tip of the iceberg’ feel in the warping of sounds, the depth and resonance of the overall feel. He also imbues this piece with a sense of resoluteness. It is in stark contrast to his other piece on this album, Stonefish which uses both AirStick and tabla in a complex tapestry of interweaving tone colours. The potential of the AirSticks seems limitless, much like the tabla and so we have the ancient and the contemporary as one. The mix works so well.
Rock Warrior begins as a unison extended riff with Sherriff and Evans and then they break away from this constraint to improvise freely in what starts out as the most conventionally jazz oriented piece on the album to somewhere very unique before returning to the initial riff. The piece demonstrates the incredible technique of both musicians and there is an essence of wry humour in this piece, plus the juxtaposition of the treble against bass that is quite lovely. The image being responded to here provides the vehicle for this interpretation in that the ‘warrior’, for this viewer anyway, is feminine, a woman in a demurring, otherworldly outfit but ironically with internal organs on display – of note brain, heart and vocal cords. But you can read of it what you will!
Dasavatara is a Hindu reference to the God of preservation with a series of incarnations at different times in history. The piece is in response to an image where, ah yes, more irony, rock resembles water and water, rock and the idea of Dasavatara is that all will eventually come together in goodness, with the emergence of a saviour, a principle common in many religions. If only we could just cut to the chase! Sherriff uses circular breathing to evoke a didgeridoo, stability, earthiness, ancientness at the beginning of this piece and there ensues an interplay between this oldness and Evans and Sherriffs’ musical take on modernity. Both instruments explore new takes on old sounds – harmonics, note-bending but still that drone up against the franticness of modern existence. Water, rock, scissors, paper.
Blue Gorge, although the credits are with Ilsar, would seem to involve all instruments if my ears serve me correctly – the only such track on the album. The instruments have been electronically manipulated through sequencing, looping, overlaying and adding effects such as echo, panning and so on. It’s an extraordinary soundscape that really does bring together the different elements of the album in a visceral way.
This is a unique and deeply satisfying collaboration between extraordinary artists with some emphatic answers to the musical question, ‘Where to next?’
Loudmouth July 2017
What a brilliant source of inspiration! Each of this album’s 12 works is a response to a photograph taken by Belinda Webster in Shoalhaven Gorge. The images, often of rock formations with anthropomorphic echoes, can be equally beautiful and disquieting. Enter composer Sandy Evans and a series of musical sketches to form the basis for improvised duets and solos evoking these startling images. The result is Evans’ most absorbing album ever. The music can be chilling, exultant, soothing, moving or mind-expanding, but never just treads water. Evans’ soprano or tenor saxophones (the former sometimes uncannily flute-like on the dramatic Rock Water Temple) are variously joined by Satsuki Odamura’s koto and bass koto, Steve Elphick’s double bass, Bobby Singh’s tabla and Adrian Sherriff’s bass trombone. Additionally Alon Ilsar offers three striking solo pieces using AirSticks (an electronic instrument of his own devising), samples and drums.
© 2017 John Shand
Sydney Morning Herald
Composed and led by saxophonist /composer Sandy Evans (OAM) this album of ambient landscapes is a musical response to photographer Belinda Webster’s Shoalhaven Gorge series of photographic images which traverse the tranquility of rock formations reflected in still waters at dawn, to the darkness of chasms and rock formations in an area of unique and pristine natural Australian bushland.The music is a series of duets with Evans by numerous musical contributors interspersed with tracks featuring Alon Ilsar’s sonic wizardry. These dynamic instrumental pieces stay mostly rooted in the ambient mode, but occasionally soar and fly beyond, demonstrating a dizzying range of technique and tone complemented by Satsuki Odamura’s blissfully evocative koto playing, Bobby Singh’s cheeky tabla with his supple hand percussion making the disc's rhythms feel organic, Adrian Sherriff’s sometimes bold and brassy bass trombone and the hauntingly faultlessly earthy double bass playing of Steve Elphick. The group’s interplay in duets is as bright and smart as the leaders’ compositions. Some are simple frameworks for coasting and trading fun solos, though the more successful moments lie in the surprising juxtapositions of instruments. Stand out tracks include the evocative and redolent Lake Yarrunga Colours featuring the mastery of Satsuki Odamura’s koto and the prowess of Evans’ soprano alongside Rock Warrior and Lake Yarrunga Morning Mist featuring the deftly skilful tabla playing of Bobby Singh and the inventiveness of Evans’ tenor and soprano saxophones respectively. This would have to be indeed one of the most intriguing contemporary musical releases in Australia so far this century.
© Barry O’Sullivan July 2017
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