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Chick Lyall Broken Poems Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Scottish pianist Chick Lyall continues his associations with Nordic saxophonists with...

Peter Marsh 2004

Anyone with an interest in UK (and particularly Scottish)jazz will probably have come across the name of Chick Lyall. The pianist has been working within a wide variety of contexts for years, from electro-acoustic free improv (with Green Room)to straighter acoustic jazz settings, and along with many of his fellow players (and the support of the tireless Caber imprint) has demonstrated that jazz is alive and well north of the border.

This album sees him united with Swedish saxophonist Joakim Milder (probably best known for his work with Tomasz Stanko) along with Lyall's usual rhythm section of Mike Dunning and Tom Bancroft. While it might be tempting to look for some kind of geographical connection between the Swede and the Scots, this record isn't the collection of desolate, wintry tone poems you might expect.

Lyall has composed seven of the twelve pieces here; the others are group improvisations. The pianist's blend of impressionism and bluesy flourishes, together with Dunning and Bancroft's sensitive, empathic swing recalls the recent explorations of Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio, although Milder's contributions (together with some of the leader's writing) suggest the earlier classic Jarrett quartet with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. His blurry tenor is unmistakably European, posessed of a folky lyricism and a hint of the poised, harmonic intelligence of the West Coast School. There's nothing even vaguely Coltrane-ish about it. His soprano is less distinctive but is often gorgeous, particularly on the aching "Lilac Suite pt2" (if this doesn't crop up on Jazz record Requests, I'll eat my beret).

The Lilac Suite and the appropriately bluesy "Blue Remembered" had me reaching for the repeat button; they seem to offer the strongest writing and the best springboards for improvisation. The spontaneously composed pieces aren't shabby either; "The Manitou" has a structure as well defined as any of the compositions. Dunning and Bancroft's abilities are particularly in evidence here as they shadow limpid piano and gently probing tenor lines, making for a genuine four way conversation.

Broken Poems is worth an hour of anyone's time; if you find yourself in need of some lyrical, engaging jazz that stands up to anything ECM have put out of late, you could do far worse than this unassuming gem of a record.

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