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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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Time Is A Blind Guide

ECM 475 4115



  1. The Stone Carriers

  2. Tide

  3. Everything Disappears I

  4. Pipa

  5. I Don't Wait For Anyone

  6. The Drowned City

  7. Lost Souls

  8. Everything Disappears II (Ode To JT)

  9. Time Is A Blind Guide

  10. As We Wait For Time

  11. Simples

Thomas Strønen - Drums, percussion

Kit Downes - Piano

Håkon Aase - Violin

Lucy Railton - Cello

Ole Morten Vågan - Double Bass

Siv Øyunn Kjenstad - Percussion (tracks 1, 7, 9, 10)

Steinar Mossige - Percussion (tracks 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

The striking title of this album, and incidentally the name of this Norwegian-British ensemble, Time Is A Blind Guide, is owed to a sentence from the prizewinning novel of twenty years ago, Fugitive Pieces, by the Canadian author Anne Michaels. The group, under the leadership of Thomas Strønen, was formed a couple of years back in response to a commission by BBC Radio Three presenter, Fiona Talkington. Strønen has become a significant figure on the European jazz scene over recent years, recording extensively both as a leader and with others. Unlike the most recent release from Food, another group in which Strønen has played, this is an all-acoustic production. Kit Downes, one of the brightest and best young British pianists, makes his ECM debut on this disc. Downes is joined by fellow-Brit, cellist Lucy Railton, who featured on his highly successful 2013 album, Light From Old Stars. The other musicians are Norwegian and include a violinist and two additional percussionists to complement Strønen's not inconsiderable talents in that area.

The title track hangs together wonderfully well, Downes, Strønen, the strings and percussionists weaving a vivacious (and swinging) spell around the melody. Close behind for quality comes Lost Souls where Downes plays the distinctive theme with finesse and feeling, ably supported by the entire ensemble. The Stone Carriers is edgy and atmospheric, albeit also melodic. Downes contributes a classy solo and Vågan plays a notable part in the success of the track, as do the percussionists. Håkon Aase, the violinist, is prominent on Pipa where his sensitive and, at times, ingenious playing reminded me of Viktoria Mullova's venture into the jazz arena, Through The Looking Glass. I liked Lucy Railton's part in I Don't Wait For Anyone which moves along in style, with Downes once more masterly. Railton produces a rich tone, too, on As We Wait For Time (incidentally, time seems to be a minor theme among the track titles). And so it goes. I should perhaps mention that the dedication of Everything Disappears II (Ode To JT) refers to the late, great English pianist John Taylor who died last year and who played with Strønen on the 2011 CD by Meadow, Bliss For Ignorance. The track takes the form of a nimble percussion solo, brief but intriguing.

This is a deeply worthwhile album, complex even quirky at certain points but pleasurable and reflecting Strønen's ambition. All but one of the tracks were written by him, the other, Everything Disappears I, being shared with Kit Downes. He is to be congratulated on his composing ability and his choice of musicians.

James Poore

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