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Empirical – ‘Wonder is the Beginning’

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    Posted: 07 Jun 2024 at 7:38am
Empirical – Wonder is the Beginning

(Whirlwind Recordings. WR4820. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield) 

EMPIRICAL - Wonder is the Beginning cover

For their first full length album in eight years, Empirical have teamed up with Jason Rebello, who plays piano on all but one track, and Alex Hitchcock, tenor on three tracks. Hitchcock has been appearing as a guest on all sorts of records recently, in addition to releasing his own acclaimed albums, his presence always adding something special.

Rebello and Hitchcock bring a lot to the party, which is in no way to diminish the quartet themselves: they’ve been playing together since 2006, and with the current line up since 2008, and on Wonder Is The Beginning they seem to be reaching new levels of performance and maturity. Their experience playing together for so many years may explain how everything seems to fit together just right: they play as one, a single musical being. Most of the tunes are written by bassist Tom Farmer, with Nathaniel Facey and Lewis Wright contributing one each.

Wright’s vibraphone and Rebello’s piano complement each other beautifully. This is particularly true on Saha World, which is a duet between the two, the decision to pare things down to a duo having only been taken in the studio on the day. The two conjure some magic between them, almost as if the two instruments were dancing together.

The tracks on which Hitchcock appears are marked by the vibrant interplay between his tenor and Facey’s alto. Ursa, The Minor Major Bear has the two saxes playing the tune together before Facey takes a solo, possibly his most exuberant on the album. When Hitchcock takes the lead, he stays in the upper register. Facey then comes back in, the two saxes circling each other.

Facey and Wright have a beautiful dialogue at the start of True Cost, the piece finely balanced between them before Rebello and Hitchcock come in. Shaney Forbes‘ drums are quite understated on much of the track, just a rumble of toms and a hint of cymbals, before the whole band take things several steps higher behind a solo by Wright.

The album is called Wonder Is The Beginning, but the (not quite) title track Wonder Is The Feeling actually comes at the end. And in many ways it sums up the virtues of the album as a whole, notably including some lovely playing from all of the quartet plus Rebello, who takes the first solo. The track moves through several moods, each player contributing. Forbes ensures the pace with some very light touch swing, unobtrusive but driving, as he is throughout the CD. Farmer takes the final solo, his bow gently pulling notes from his bass, and we are left with trilling piano and ringing vibes.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat.

LINKS: Buy Wonder… at Presto Music
Review of the album launch by Rob Mallows

from  www.newsnow.co.uk

Edited by snobb - 07 Jun 2024 at 7:39am
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