Trish Clowes: A View With a Room review – a dreamy mix of structure and eclectic improv | Music


Over the past decade, the prolific and versatile British saxophonist/composer Trish Clowes has written for ensembles as substantial as the London Sinfonietta and the BBC Concert Orchestra. But since 2016, probably her favourite setting has been her eloquent and reflexive small jazz band, the My Iris quartet. Guitarist Chris Montague, keyboardist Ross Stanley and drummer James Maddren join Clowes on her seventh album, A View with a Room: a rich mix of cinematic landscape evocation, funky guitar grooves, dreamy reveries spun off minimalist patterns and fluently uncliched improv.

Trish Clowes: A View With a Room album cover
Trish Clowes: A View With a Room album cover

Clowes wrote all but one of these eight instrumentals for her live-streamed lockdown shows, and the isolation, loss, and sporadic creative consolations of that period inevitably influence their themes. The clock-like snare smack under the title track suggest lockdown’s monotony, while the asymmetrical suppleness of Clowes’s full-toned tenor solo, and fluent breaks from Stanley and Montague, celebrate a free creativity within it. The Ness, a heartfelt tribute to film-maker Rose Hendry’s impressions of the Fife coastline, also evocatively juxtaposes moods, in the stuttery minimalism of Montague’s five-note guitar pattern under Clowes’s smoky murmurs on tenor, and her dreamy, misty-landscape sounds on soprano.

Montague’s chords get a hauntingly Bill Frisellian country chime on the seductively waltzing Time, while Clowes’s expressive power at low volumes drives twisting tenor variations on the same track. A View with a Room vividly confirms that Clowes’s ever-adroit balancing of structure and eclectic postbop improv with My Iris seems to be improving with every album.

Also out this month

Norwegian piano star Tord Gustavsen’s long-honed recipe of low-key folk songs, gospel, classical music and jazz gets a graceful makeover on Opening (ECM) – with new bassist Steinar Raknes, a player of uncannily responsive precision alongside regular percussionist Jarle Vespestad, while subtle electronics sometimes create ghostly horn-player effects. That inimitable vocalist, composer, MC and sound-painter Cleveland Watkiss puts his unique stamp on Jamaican musical history with The Great Jamaican Songbook Vol 1 (Cdubya Music) – gracefully buoyant on Gregory Isaacs’ If I Don’t Have You; coolly cruising in a pumping jazz band including trumpeter Byron Wallen and vibraphonist Orphy Robinson on Burning Spear’s Red, Gold and Green. And innovative New York composer/saxist Tim Berne, as you may never have heard him before, plays his own compositions in flintily lyrical and welcomingly warm duo partnership with young rising-star guitar original Gregg Belisle-Chi (Mars, Intakt Records).

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