greg foat

JOE’S JAZZY JAUNTS: The Greg Foat Group - The Dancers at the Edge of Time

British jazz has always been an outlier in the music’s overall framework. There haven’t been many big names to come out of England, though performers like bassist Dave Holland and guitarist John McLaughlin are the real deal. This week, we’re going to look at a relative newcomer, pianist Greg Foat, who specializes in a lush brand of fusion.

Foat debuted in 2011 with Dark Is the Sun, which he recorded in Sweden with an ensemble featuring elements such as harpsichord, tubular bells, and choir. He followed that up with Girl and Robot With Flowers, which had a scaled down set of players.

Foat’s latest is The Dancers at the Edge of Time, the title of which hints at the sort of mystical gracefulness contained within. With a few exceptions, it’s a restrained piece of work, prioritizing texture and subtle harmonic shifts. It’s Angelo Badalamenti’s score for Twin Peaks meets the late Swedish pianist Esbjorn Svensson, to throw out a few potentially arcane references.

The album starts with the title track, which begins by milking a few synth chords for all they’re worth. After they run their course, a breathy tenor sax swoops in to take us on a journey through the clouds, backed by swashes of cymbal. It’s effective enough that you can almost smell the smoky scent of the basement jazz club through your computer speakers.

“Door Into Summer” maintains the tempo, but lightens the mood. It has a bit of the mellow warmth of Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower,” buoyed by supple horn swells throughout.

Before things threaten to get staid, “The Hunt” arrives to inject a little danger into the proceedings. The smartly paced melody gives way to a saxophone solo that leans toward full freakout over several minutes. It’s a change of pace from what came before, but it’s welcome.

“The Dancer’s Waltz” introduces a three-beat feel that takes the rhythm section out of its groove-based comfort zone. “The Eye of Horus” sees the soloing duties spread out among piano, saxophone, and trumpet. “Rocken End” provides a somewhat confusing white noise-based soundscape.

Foat has a strong command of the sound he wants out of his group. The players mesh well together, and the production supports this chemistry. A little bit of the subdued atmosphere goes a long way, but Foat does a good job of changing things up as the album gets going. There’s room to grow, but it’s an assured installment in the pianist’s catalog.

-Joe Ciccarello