Roamer – “Lost Bees” – London Jazz News
Itinerant – lost bees
(Diatribe Records – DIABOK040. Album review by Jon Turney)
A gnat caught in the eyelash
none of us know who is more afraid
Vagabond are “a quartet of the most internationally recognized Irish improvisers”, according to the co-leader Matthew Jacobson. It’s a fair judgment as he joins Jacobsen on drums along with electric bassist and guitarist Simon Jermyn (now resident in Cologne), based in Berlin Matthew Halpin on tenor saxophone and flute, and the wonderfully distinctive vocalist Lauren Kinsella.
if i could write
in the most
forbidden place i know i could find you
The added ingredient is Kinsella’s close artistic relationship with the poet Cherry Smith. In collaboration with composer Ed Bennett in 2019, they created a hugely memorable performance of words and improvisation about the lived experience of the Irish famine.
When I went for a walk, the earth took me
solidly, separately on its surface,
an outcrop in the line of gravity
Roamer begins with Smyth’s most diverse poems, which are available as a separate printed booklet from Diatribe records (music is downloadable only). But they are seen as musical prompts rather than cues to put words to music. Sometimes, as on the title track, Kinsella delivers a single stanza of a longer poem, with care and precision, as a prelude to dreamily elegiac improvisation. On the groove gently Fairy tale we hear selected lines, the poem recomposed to fit the music, and Haiku receives similar treatment. Shorecredited to Kinsella, is a dumb duo of bass and sax and Jacobsen pendant lights features a soulful lead guitar.
The guards are gentle at the solstice,
carefree with so much darkness
The whole thing could be seen as a series of translations, if you will, from one art mode to another rather than between languages. The task is to maintain the emotional tone and sentiment while going beyond the original texts. Kinsella does this quietly as she moves from snippets of text to beautiful free vocalizations, but the other three players also help make music that speaks to the poems. All the words I quoted come from the libretto. On the recording, perhaps, they can still be heard, but they remain unsaid. This oblique approach to Smyth’s poems feels like a success executed in an adventurous way, with a pleasing unity of mood and approach. And where Kinsella and Smyth are Hungry was, appropriately, austere, heartbreaking and rabid, this selection is lithe, musically lyrical and more calmly thoughtful. The four musicians are perfectly tuned to each other throughout. The record is a delight of modest proportions and beautifully atmospheric.
Jon Turney writes about jazz, and more, from Bristol (website/ Twitter)
LINK: The album on Diatribe