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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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ANDY SHEPPARD QUARTET

Surrounded by Sea

ECM 471 4273

 

 

Tipping Point

I Want To Vanish

Aoidh, Na Dean Cadel Idir Parts 1-3

Origin of Species

They Aren’t Perfect and Neither Am I

Medication

The Impossibility of Silence

I See Your Eyes Before Me

A Letter

Looking for Ornette


Andy Sheppard (saxophones)
Eivind Aarset (guitar)
Michel Benitas (bass)
Sebastian Rochford (drums)

Recorded August 2014, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano [53:30]


Andy Sheppard is so interesting a musician that it came as a surprise to me quite how bloodless this album is. There are times when it sounds more parodic of a certain type of ECM disc than anything else. Of course there are many lyric moments here but they seem to me too unrelieved, too complacently spread throughout this 53-minute disc for any one moment ever truly to impinge on the memory, let alone to stir the soul.

Indeed soul and blood-stirring is the least of it. Instead there is so effortless a mastery of dynamics and tempo in Tipping Point that it is almost a miracle in self-control. And Sheppard’s inimitably lyrical tone graces Elvis Costello’s I Want To Vanish with superb decorum. He treats the traditional Gaelic folksong Aoidh, Na Dean Cadel Idir - somewhat pretentiously reprised twice later in different form - with a quietude and reserved spirit that holds more back than it gives out. And despite the almost micromanaged tonal gradations of Origin of Species, and the super-subtle bass playing of Michel Benita, the sum total never quite seems to match the instrumental finesse.

Drummer Sebastian Rochford’s They Aren’t Perfect and Neither Am I sports a natty title – something of a hostage to fortune, though – but the playing is so respectful, so quiescent and docile that for all its felicities it doesn’t succeed in creating something memorable. Occasionally the strait-jacket is loosed where the percussive wash and Sheppard’s slightly more taut tone bring a greater sense of commitment but these are rare moments in an album that left me frustrated and disappointed in equal measure.

Jonathan Woolf



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