Thursday, 2 July 2020

Alabaster DePlume ‎– To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 (2020)

Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: International Anthem Recording Company

01.   Visit Croatia
02.   What's Missing
03.   Song Of The Foundling
04.   Whiskey Story Time
05.   Not Now, Jesus
06.   If You're Sure You Want To
07.   The Lucky Ones
08.   Why, Buzzardman, Why
09.   Not My Ask
10.   Turpentine
11.   I Hope

Acoustic Guitar – Leon Boydon
Bass Flute – Kirsty McGee
Bass Guitar – Lorien Edwards
Cello – Beth Porter, Hannah Miller, Jessica Macdonald, Will Calderbank
Drums – Dan Truen, Sarathy Korwar
Drums, Percussion – Phillip Howley, Rick Weedon
Electric Guitar – Ellis Davies, James Howard
Mbira – Pascal Makonese
Percussion, Bass Pedals – Paddy Steer
Piano – Daniel Inzani
Pianette, Clavinet, Piano – John Ellis
Piano, Voice – Danalogue
Synth – Chestnutt
Tenor Saxophone – Lorenzo Prati
Violin – Mikey Kenney, Tim Vincent Smith
Vocals, Tenor Saxophone, Guitar – Alabaster DePlume
Voice – Biff Roxby, Donna Thompson, Jess Connor
Voice, Flute – Ríoghnach Connolly
Composed By – Alabaster DePlume (Gus Fairbairn)
Co-producer – Mark Dressler
Producer – Alabaster DePlume, Daniel Inzani, John Ellis, Paddy Steer
Arranged By – Alabaster DePlume, Biff Roxby, Danalogue, Ellis Davies

Albaster DePlume is a spoken word artist, writer, saxophonist and bandleader. My first introduction was through his ‘Realistic Behaviour’ programme on Worldwide FM, where he introduces musicians from different backgrounds to play together and develop music live on air. This show is a development of his monthly ‘Peach’ concert series combining music and theatre originally established at London’s Total Refreshment Centre where he’s a studio resident. 
To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 is a new departure as all his previous records feature his poetry and singing performances. This is a collection of nine instrumental pieces taken from the three albums that preceded his 2018 critical breakthrough Corner of a Sphere, plus two new compositions recorded last year at the Total Refreshment Centre. There are four songs from Copernicus (Manchester 2012), one from The Jester (Bristol, 2013), and four from Peach (Antwerp/Manchester/London, 2015). 
The album is being co-released by Total Refreshment Centre, micro Hebridean indie label Lost Map (Eigg) and, crucially, by International Anthem, the Chicago-based ‘boundary defying’ label that’s also home to drummer/producer Makaya McCraven, bassist Junius Paul and guitarist Jeff Parker and a supporter of the jazz non-profit Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. 
DePlume (aka Angus Fairburn) met the Cy and Lee of the album’s title while working for the Manchester charity Ordinary Lifestyles, which supports people with learning disabilities, helping them live in their own homes. Together they made up melodies and tunes which were later used as the starting points for each composition. DePlume says: “We made these things to help each other be calm. Three labels and I have collected them together, in case they might do you good.” 
The beautiful Winter Hibiscus cover art by Raimund Wong sets the scene perfectly – the music is serene, delicate, cool and harmonious, spacious, gently orchestrated and with strong Japanese and Celtic folk themes. DePlume’s solo saxophone carries the melodies, and his tremulous and expressive vibrato takes on the identities of a number of different eastern and African instruments. The music works best for me is when at its simplest and most focused, such as on the opener Visit Croatia and the lilting Whisky Story Time. The two newly-recorded tracks What’s Missing and The Lucky Ones featuring Sarathay Korwar and Dan ‘Danalogue’ Leavers (The Comet is Coming), are two of the more adventurous pieces, but the closing section of The Lucky Ones reprises a gorgeous Japanese theme that stays with you long after the song is over. 
I can imagine many people using this music as a balm for difficult times, as DePlume intended. It has been conceived and performed for all the right reasons, and for that alone deserves to be heard so that you can make up your own mind. But there’s no doubt there will be much more to come from this original, inspirational and multi-talented artist.
Adam Sieff / London Jazz News

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