Tuesday 13 January 2015

Footfall - Quest Ensemble

Footfall -  Quest Ensemble
Footfall; Quest Ensemble
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 6 2014
Star rating: 3.5

Part-improvised, part-composed jazz and minimalist inspired music from a new piano trio

The Quest Ensemble is a young London-based classical piano trio consisting of Filipe Sousa (piano), Tara Franks (cello) and Preetha Narayanan (violin). This disc, Footfall, is their debut album and was released in May 2014. The works on it are something different to the usual in that the three performers collaboratively create original work which mixes composition and improvisation.

The ensemble is very much a collaboration between the three creators, each of whom specialises in collaborations which mix genres, disciplines and artforms. Cellist Tara Franks is a classically trained cellist who trained in Leeds, London and Italy as well as spending time in the Gambia and Bali. Filipe Sousa is a Portugese pianist who started his training in Lisbon as a classical pianist, before continuing with jazz piano and composition. Violinist Preetha Narayanan is, like Franks and Sousa, an alumnus of the Guildhall School and Music and Drama's Leadership programme.

Quest Ensemble
An important thread running through the pieces on the album is that we are listening to three equal voices and there is little sense of the hierarchy of a conventional classical piano trio. The sound world is in that intersection between minimalism, post-modernism and jazz with a free flowing between the three.

From the opening of the first track, it is clear that minimalism is a big influence. Or at least the gestures of minimalism. The three artists use melodic germs which are very reminiscent of Philip Glass but their sensibility is somewhat distant from the stripped down purism of Glass and Reich, and the way they combine the melodic fragments relates as much to later John Adams and other composers. Also, there is a sense of dialogue and of interaction, rather than the pure process of minimalism.

There are also other influences at work, including a melodic sensibility that evokes composers like RVW, and a strong feel for jazz and blues. There is also a sense rhythmic infectiousness which is rarely far away and I could imagine that this music is highly effective and affecting live.

I am not sure quite how well improvisation can be captured on recording, there is a somewhat settled composed quality to the performances here. I rather suspect that they are best caught live, with their interaction heard on the wing.

Strange Place for monks [4.29]
I can see you [3.52]
Interlude-Snow in April [2.58]
City Footfall [5.26]
Chorale [3.49]
Blue Jade on a dusty road [4.05]
Reflections [5.34]
Train [5.48]
Willow [3.30]
All compositions were written collaboratively and performed by Quest Ensemble
Quest Ensemble (Tara Franks - Cello, Preetha Narayanan - Violin, Filipe Sousa - Piano)
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Andrew Lawson at Fieldgate Studios

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