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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.