Sunday, November 10, 2019

Music for Commuting: Lewis Porter Phil Scarff Group

Lewis Porter (p) Phil Scarff (ss/ts/sopranino/tamboura) John Funkhouser (b) Bertram Lehmann (d)

I’ve been meaning to check out Three Minutes to Four by the Lewis Porter/Phil Scarff Group for a while now and last month I finally got around to it. This week it was back on again getting a fresh listen along with the rumble of the road and an ever increasingly loud muffler. I remember Lewis mentioning this group several years ago, so they had been together at least a few years when the album - the group's first - was recorded (2015). And the resulting sound is that of a very cohesive unit.
I'm always keen to hear different soprano players and, outside of a few YouTube videos, Scarff is new to me. He has a classic, focused soprano tone with a bubbly, buoyancy (particularly on uptempo pieces). But he can draw out a round, woodiness too (part 1 of "Bageshri-Bageshwari" and "Raga Shree" being but two examples). He reserves this for the Indian pieces but it would be great to hear him apply this tone colour to the some other material too. He sticks to soprano on the Indian pieces but I wouldn’t mind hearing some tenor on these pieces.

Porter's contrafact ("Long Ago") is based "Long Ago and Far Away." Porter writes in the liner notes it's a song he associates with Art Pepper. Funnily enough, I do too. And I ending up listening to versions by Pepper on The Art of Pepper Vol.2 and Intensity - I hadn't listened to either for quite some time.

On an album with pieces featuring tone rows, dedications to Olivier Messiaen and adaptations of works from Southern India, “Strode Rode” seems a little out of place. But it's still a fine album and I'm going to keep my ear out for more from Scarff.

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