There is on Corea Change a glorious double bass run by Andrew Robb intertwined by the machinations of Konrad Wiszniewski’s sax, brought to an abrupt conclusion by Euan Stevenson’s piano, which in fact bookends the number, encapsulating all that is magnificent about this second release from New Focus.
Throughout there is pure jazz, both sax and piano trading blows while knitted by a phenomenally paced bass, with Wiszniewski playing out of his skin. Now listen to the tracks on either side of Corea Change, Ascension and Braeside.
Ascension opens with a funereal violin before it is elevated by The Glasgow String Quartet, a tune that wouldn’t be out of place on an Ealing Studio soundtrack of the 1940’s, plaintively atmospheric and distinct from Corea Change.
Braeside is quintessentially chamber music, not dissimilar in tone or pace to Ascension, but the hallmark of On Song, with 13 original compositions, with the String Quartet featured on eight, is the juxtaposition of many styles, predominantly jazz and classical, and the ebullience of the playing, which is always infectious.
You are not always gifted with a successful mix of the sombre and joie de vivre whenever a tenor sax and a quartet of strings get into the ring together, but here it works, time and again. Perhaps the reason is to be found in the almost sonata-like approach to the compositions:exposition, development, and recapitulation, in which the opening sequence is stated, then expanded, and finally restated.
On Song is an experience for the adventurous ear. Stevenson and Wiszniewski make for a chilled pairing, and the benefits of the collaboration are omnipresent: take Green Park where the flute and sax are gilded by the thrusting but evenly paced energy of the quartet. Destination Unknown follows and Stevenson’s piano saves it from rambling into middle of the road turf, with Wiszniewski’s swooping sax capriciously playful as a feather lost in rising thermals.
There is an articulate cohesiveness to On Song, a melting pot of jazz idioms and classical nuances, but what is finally memorable is the improvisatory freshness, the wellspring of familiarity, the coalition of many forces, a canvas which can accommodate both lightning speed bass and weightless sax, and which, to be frank, makes for a charming encounter.