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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf


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The Seven Wonders



Dancing River

Boogie Train


On Gossamer Wings

Back to the Root

In the Abbey

Northern Lights

One Step from the Edge

They Can’t Harm You Now

Geoff Eales (piano)

Recorded April 2014 in Wyastone Leys [67:32]

The latest of Geoff Eales’ recitals for Nimbus finds the British pianist in richly pluralist form. Casting a wide stylistic net is something he does conspicuously well, though never at the expense of losing a sense of his own personality; he remains recognisably himself whether evoking Stravinsky or Boogie, or whether he draws out the timbral suggestiveness and harmonic richness of Impressionism. Solo recitals are hard enough at the best of times, so this wide net is a decided advantage. These twelve improvisations draw on the catholicism of his musical interests. They are also imbued with his stirring rhythmic ingenuity – The Seven Wonders, for example, starts in seven-time – and a copious amount of lyric intensity. Each tune has a strong sense of individuality; Rapture, for instance, with its rich breadth and rippling trills, is followed by Untamed with its turbulent energy.

Some of these improvisations are topographical in inspiration – the Great Wall of China, say, or the Wye Valley – though not descriptive, as such: more, they are evocations. Dancing River is especially good (Eales is good at dance patterns) with its Debussian heritage and Messiaen-like treble colour. Boogie Train shows the other side of the Eales coin – full of flair and Keith Jarrett-tinged Gospel exultation, played out with a rich pianistic palette. In contradistinction, there are a few mordant impressionist chords to offset the prevailing tristesse of Yearning. But he is also in touch with down-home, and there’s a funky start to Back to the Root, which opens out into a full-scale blues workout. There’s a mystic quality to some of his chords in In the Abbey – does Eales ever relax with some Scriabin? – which takes Tintern Abbey for its inspiration, and there’s glittering a-plenty in Northern Lights. The last track is a heartfelt but delicate elegy, and ends the album on a note of intimate reflection. It’s a good album, too, played by a master technician with the imagination and structural discipline to convey these improvisations fully formed.

Jonathan Woolf

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