Saturday, August 31, 2019

NZ Jazz: Jann Rutherford - Discovery

Jann Rutherford: Discovery (Tall Poppies) 1998

I picked this out of the pile on the spare of the moment as I was about to head out the door on the first of the month. Sometimes the fit is just right for a particular moment. And having this keep me company whilst driving through the Horowhenua fog.... it just felt right.
New Zealand Jazz

The album contains 14 solo piano pieces – original compositions and some improvised pieces too. Overall it's warm and intimate with nice amount of introspection (with a sombre edge). Some pieces are quite joyful (yet slightly restrained), while others are searching deep. There are some shades of Mike Nock on the more up beat tunes (“Expectations” “Eve” "Weird Blue Lady”), but rhythmically Rutherford is different. Forceful is not the right word, but Mike is more rhythmically pronounced or percussive. As a bonus, listening to Discovery led me to giving both Talisman and Piano Solos a spin too.

Although the more introspective pieces may have led to some naval gazing, they are my favourite parts of the album – particularly those that I'm assuming are free improvisations such as the 2-part “Flights of Fancy” and 3-part “Adventure” (I finally checked the liner notes... they are free improvisations).

I noticed that this album would often lead my mind wander off and ponder things beyond the music at hand. Was it the music or just my general state of mind in this month? It seemed to happen often enough that I feel the music was setting the wheels in motion - just zoning out with it but not in it. I may have felt a bit zoned-out at times, but the music was going in. And as the month passed I was catching myself singing along with bits and pieces across the album – no doubt due to the lyrical, melodically memorable aspects of her playing.

Some music can change your mood, other (or at other times) music can reinforce it. But in this case I feel I’m projecting my own feelings into the music (we always do that though, don't we). Had recent times not been what they were, how differently would I hear this music? Would I be projecting something else entirely on this music? Would listening to this album in a years time change my perception of it - or perhaps my impression is now ingrained in me. Revisiting this album down the track could be an interesting experience.

Why is this on my mind this month and what is it about this recording that made me think about it? Would I have thought about it had I been listening to something else? Further, why am I doing this series on New Zealand jazz recordings? Why not just listen to music I really love? Two years in and I’ve found it interesting and quite rewarding at times. But how much of the music has touched me on a truly deep level? Not much really. I started this series at a time when things were getting tough, and probably more than anything else it was a way to reconnect with home. The struggle continues but for now, at least, I feel like things have run their course. Maybe it’s time for a break and step back from this before it becomes a drag.

Across the month moments change but none quite fit like that first listen. It’s funny, you sit down to write about an album and something else comes out.

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