The genre of shuffle-steppin', be-boppin', finger-snappin' fusion-jazz has its proponents and detractors. I'm one of the proponents and have been a fan of Passport, Mezzoforte, Cassiopeia, the Egan/Gottlieb stuff, and similar ensembles, though the most popular ne plus ultra of the form can be found in Steeley Dan, Shakatak, Steps Ahead, and groove bands like that. Nicholl & Farquharson start out Della by Moonlight from that side of town, which has a hell of a lot to do with the old Gil Evans oeuvre after he cut away from Miles, but, after the opening track, Nine Toes, I soon discovered Nicholl & Farquharson have a pronounced liking for the thoughtful, quasi-balladic, and semi-symphonic as well, as in the follower, Aytul's Waltz, with its surprisingly classical elements and five-piece horn section.
In fact, as that initial cut wound down, I found myself thinking, "Yeah, I like this!" but became entranced halfway through Aytul's Waltz, hooked and enamored as the CD revealed its true nature, a smorgasbord of many flavors and influences far beyond jazz fusion, not the least of which was a generous swath of some of Hubert Laws' old experimentalism. Boston brought Phillip Glass together with Debussy, introduced them to Prokofiev, and danced a minuet in the front garden, everything overseen by Michael Nyman, me sitting deliriously happy in the audience. This is chamber music in certain aspects and halfway between that and orchestral in other sections, but, really, it's chamber music and, in City Suite, not unlike some of the gorgeous material Roger Eno used to turn out (and still should; the guy's a modern master of the craft).
Choro Suite, on the other hand, contains Randy Newman flavors and even hi-toned ragtime along with the more filigreed passages found in City, first becoming a Sunday afternoon at the amphitheater spent listening to a pastorale band that's had a few nips at the cooking sherry before settling into the long-hair material. Those two four-movement suites dominate the disc, bookended by an "intro" and "outro" (well, they aren't, not really, but what the hell, hm?), and where the album came in with fusion, it goes out with Kenton-y swing in the closing title song.
Matt Nicholl plays the bass and Mike Farquharson mans the keyboards and some percussion, but the real stars are what lies in their compositional abilities. Della by Moonlight is a gourmet feast of a style not often encountered and most definitely what we could use a hell of a lot more of. We're in an age none of the Baby Boomers expected, though they should have, and the progression of hybridizations is remarkable, with no end in sight. This release and some of the recent magnificent Zoho label issuances have a lot in common. Anyone—and I'm speaking here to some of my more moronic confreres in the ink trade—who thinks we're heading towards some sort of nadir artistically has their head in the sand. Excellent musics are better and more plentiful than ever, here's one of the proofs, and it's the critics, not the artists, who are wanting, for various reasons…though, thankfully, there are a few reliables.
Oh, and Tim Miller's highly Steve Kahn-esque guitar work in Della? Niiiiiiice!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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