MORE LISTENING, MORE HEARING
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"MORE LISTENING, MORE HEARING"
SLAMCD 2109 Barcode: 5028386713326
Howard Riley Solo Piano.
Recorded 5 July 2019 at Porcupine Studios, London.
Howard Riley takes further his 30 year association with SLAM with a sequel to his 2018 release "LISTEN TO HEAR", recorded on the same piano at the same studio. The programming is typical Riley – impromptu improvisations with the inclusion of the odd standard, this time a couple of takes on ‘Long ago and far away’.
1 Line Play 6:02
2 Elusivity 4:17
3 Feelings Allowed 2:49
4 Both Hands 5:55
5 Long Ago And Far Away-Take 1 4:10
6 Long Ago And Far Away-Take 2 2:57
7 As It Was 4:05
8 Momentum 3:55
9 Sunflower 4:51
10 Clip It 4:55
11 Decisions 5:48
12 Flow 2:52
All compositions by Howard Riley except Long Ago And Far Away-Take by Jerome Kern. Recorded 5 July 2019 at Porcupine Studios, London by Nick Taylor. Photos by Ray Buckland Artwork by Andy Isham
Preconceived notions can be problematic when approaching new works of a familiar artist. Howard Riley is one of my touchstones to determine how hard core people really are about this type of music; anything less than slightly glazed unfocused eyes and a hushed "that guy's incredible" after mentioning him and it's time to change the subject. He's amassed an incredible body of work in a variety of settings: trios with Barry Guy and Tony Oxley; duets with Keith Tippett, Jaki Byard, Lol Coxhill and Elton Dean; quartet work with Tony Wren, Larry Stabbins and Mark Sanders; and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. And that's just an executive summary. But where he really takes flight for me is in his solo recordings.
One of these days, surely after he shuffles off the mortal coil, someone will do a retrospective summary of Riley's not small body of work. When that happens it will be difficult to avoid repeating, if not subtly rewriting, items from Brian Morton’s liner notes from this where he points out, among many other things, that "chronology doesn't seem to matter much in Riley's work". Nowhere was that illustrated more than by the subsequent release on No Business, Live in the USA, of concert performances from late in 1976 sounding just as advanced as anything released. He seems to have emerged on the music scene fully formed in terms of having an oddly precise logical mind of figuring out how to make motifs work together that others wouldn't think of juxtaposing, much less doing it. He employs a walking bass line frequently, a deceivingly simple way of drawing the listener into comfortably familiar territory while dissonant fireworks happen with the other hand, a tendency he shared with Byard. And his works never outstay their welcome. Listening to Riley might be mentally challenging and even draining but it's constantly stimulating and engaging while never tedious.
One useful way to discuss Riley's solo work is "short stories" versus "long form". Although they share the same internal logic, recently the pianist has adhered to the shorter format including the present recording, a followup to the 2018 Listen to Hear, recorded in the same studio on the same piano.
"Sunflower" is a song that goes back to his initial 1968 recording, Discussions, a trio date with Barry Guy and John Hiseman that initially was available in 99 pressings before Dusk Fire Records flooded the market with an additional one thousand CDs in 2015. On that recording it was a brisk barely over two minutes trio workout. Here, stretched out to a more leisurely almost five minutes, you hear repeated hints of Monk without any direct quotes. Riley has done Monk tribute albums, shared with Ellington, and recorded a "T.S.M. (With Thanks)" homage on Constant Change 1976-2016 but the joy of realizing an unstated influence after all this time is a sublime treat.
There are two versions of Jerome Kern’s "Long Ago and Far Away" here, similar to how there were two versions of two different original compositions on Listen to Hear. In all cases they're different enough to merit inclusion and of a high enough quality to think "why not?"
After the death of Keith Tippett I thought it was very important to review this. Although it's a daunting task to write about a musical hero, sometimes you just have to jump in the deep end and see what happens. That said after the first couple listens I almost begged off doing it. It sounded less vital than what I was hoping for and I didn't want to damn it with faint praise of a lion in Winter commentary on a not young musician with Parkinson's disease. So I consulted a trusty colleague who gave me some valuable advice: "give it a few more listens". It was on the next listen that the pleasures of "Sunflower" made themselves evident.
Likewise with the rest of the compositions; there's not a song here that doesn't sound perfectly thought out and executed from beginning to end. There are plenty of uses of a walking bass, maybe not as persistently percussive as in earlier times but still performing the same function. This is music to be savored as it's added to an already large book of work.
Stephen Griffith https://www.freejazzblog.org/2020/07/howard-riley-more-listening-more.html
I’d venture to say that Riley is unique. The nearest parallel to his approach would be the early work of Paul Bley but there have also always been surprising hints of Bud Powell, one of his earliest influences, here noticeable on tracks such as Momentum and Decisions. Occasional echoes apart, though, there is never any doubt that a singular, original and readily identifiable musical mind is at work. It’s not so much that he has some favourite responses developed over the years (who doesn’t?) but more that his rangy phrasing, rhythmic manner and developmental processes are readily recognisable, highly personal and individual.
All the pieces are originals, except for Jerome Kern’s Long Ago And Far Away, which has long been in Riley’s repertoire. (I think it was a trio performance of this on Radio 2’s Jazz Club back in 1968 that first fired my appreciation of Riley’s work.) The two performances of it here – the first setting a flowing right hand against resolute chords which gradually loosen up and join the dance, the second taking a more boisterous approach – are followed by Riley’s As It Was, which itself has the feel of a revered standard. Sunflower almost is a standard as it was a staple of Riley’s repertoire from the early days of his trio and was featured on the 1968 debut album, Discussions. The original LP, if you can track down a copy, will cost you around £1,000, but the album, along with fascinating extras where a teenage Riley plays bebop, is available on CD on the Dusk Fire label.
As mentioned in the profile of Riley I did for JJ in April 2017, his association with Slam has been very fruitful, and he described it as "one of my longest and best connections on the record front". This session, recorded at his favoured Porcupine Studios by Nick Taylor, is a fine addition to the catalogue, further graced by characteristically perceptive and enlightening notes by JJ’s own Brian Morton.
Barry Witherden 12/4/2020 https://jazzjournal.co.uk/2020/04/12/howard-riley-more-listening-more-hearing/
Pianist Howard Riley gives a gorgeous solo recital on this collection of twelve ideas. He does two reads of the standard "Long Ago and Far Away" with each shining with different and clever charms. His own touch displays a deft stride on "Feelings Allowed" and warm pulsations on "As It Was" with some high pitches on "Clip It". A nice bopper "both Hands" and reflective "Line Play" display a romantic heart. This guy’s got a sensitive and alluring grasp of musicality.
George Harris Jazz Weekly 4/9/20 https://www.jazzweekly.com/2020/04/grand-slamhoward-riley-more-listening-more-hearing-perlin-nose-john-eats-bacon-with-francis-in-the-cage-locked-locked/
Howard Riley is a Free Jazz pianist, who learned piano from the age of six and jazz piano from 16. He studied widely, then joined Evan Parker’s quartet. He played with Jaki Byard, Elton Dean, John McLaughlin, Tony Oxley, Barbara Thompson and Keith Tippett.
He recognises that jazz evolves through playing rather than listening and that it has always been open to absorbing other musical mores, a practice which has become increasingly complex as the occurrence of other musical forms has grown. The pieces he plays lean towards an amalgamation of composition and improvisation and the route he treads between various musical forms remains impalpable. No matter how free, these pieces never lose their robust structures and each exhibits a vibrant and distinct sensation of conclusion – of a trip, maybe, but a terminus has been reached.
Riley’s ‘trip’, his journey, is I feel far from over and he is at the peak of his creative force. His attack at the piano is confident, yet elegant; his touch calm and graceful; his journey discrete. This is a truly remarkable album.
Ken Cheetham https://www.jazzviews.net/howard-riley---more-listening-more-hearing.html
More Listening, More Hearing (Slam 2109; UK) Featuring Howard Riley on solo piano, recorded in July of 2019 at Porcupine Studios in London. There is a long tradition of great British modern jazz pianists which stretches back to the fifties and really took off during the 1960’s. The giants of the sixties included: Stan Tracey, Pat Smythe, Michael Garrick, Chris MacGregor, John Taylor, Mike Westbrook, Gordon Beck, Keith Tippett and Howard Riley. Of this list, only Mr. Tippett and Mr. Riley are still with us and still recording. Howard Riley’s first album was released in 1967, a trio effort with Barry Guy and Jon Hiseman. Since around 1990, Mr. Riley has upwards of 20 solo piano efforts released (singles, doubles & a 6 CD Set), hence this appears to be his favorite format. For this effort Mr. Riley wrote all but one of the songs with just one cover, "Long Ago and Far Away" by Jerome Kern. Mr. Riley states in the liner notes that these are all first takes to keep things fresh. Listening to this disc, I can almost hear Mr. Riley thinking, taking his time, slowly stretching things out, concentrating on certain phrases, starting in a moderate tempo and slowly building, increasing in intensity, bit by bit. The one cover here, "Long Ago and Far Away" was first recorded by Mr Riley for one of his first trio dates, more than fifty years ago. It is a lovely ballads and is played with restrained grace. Much of this sounds like Mr. Riley is starting with a (partial) ballad, which slowly morphs into assorted fragments. Some of those freer bits are then expanded, twisted and stretched out. The mood here is mostly reflective, so it does take some time to calm down to the essence of what is going on. What works best for me is when Mr. Riley takes a phrase and then twists it in a variety of ways. This is a subtle gem of the more modest kind. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG February 2020
Uno sguardo alla discografia di Howard Riley ce lo fa trovare nella classica formazione del trio insieme a Barry Guy al contrabbasso e Alan Jackson alla batteria nel lontano 1969. Da allora il veterano pianista inglese ha sempre seguito un suo stile personale, senza seguire i musicisti che vanno per la maggiore in un determinato momento, restando sé stesso, riconoscibile per il modo in cui si approccia al pianoforte, liberamente, seguendo solo l’ispirazione del momento, senza strutture che ne possano imbrigliare il flusso di idee. Tutti i brani sono improvvisazioni del momento eseguiti nell’ordine in cui sono sul disco. Long Ago and Far Away è una famosa composizione di Jerome Kern, qui eseguita due volte, e Sunflower è una composizione dello stesso Riley già registrata nel 1967. Su tutto regna la singolarità dello stile di Riley, che sia questo standard o che siano le sue composizioni, una musica che emana tranquillità e che è al di fuori dei soliti canoni. Non ha mai seguito le mode e non lo fa neanche ora, come un Monk, che si può apprezzare o meno, ma che ad ogni nota si presenta riconoscibile agli ascoltatori. Vittorio Lo Conte http://www.musiczoom.it/?p=31435#.XkKGQzH7S1tFeb 2020
A look at Howard Riley's discography makes us find him in the classic trio formation together with Barry Guy on double bass and Alan Jackson on drums way back in 1969. Since then the veteran English pianist has always followed his personal style, without following the musicians who they go mostly at a certain moment, remaining himself, recognizable by the way he approaches the piano, freely, following only the inspiration of the moment, without structures that can harness the flow of ideas. All the songs are improvisations of the moment performed in the order in which they are on the disc. Long Ago and Far Away is a famous composition by Jerome Kern, performed here twice, and Sunflower is a composition by Riley himself already recorded in 1967. Above all, the singularity of Riley's style reigns, whether it is this standard or that it is his compositions, a music that emanates tranquility and that is outside the usual canons. He has never followed the fashions and does not do it even now, like a Monk, which can be appreciated or not, but which at every note is recognizable to listeners.
Da oltre mezzo secolo il pianist inglese Riley porta avante uno lezione fatta di rigore e ricerco, onesta intellettual a tutto tonde "con la calma di ub filosofa e precisione di un ingegnere", come scriva in nota Brian Morton, che ricarda di aver seguito le vicende dell 'avventoroso e placido musicist a sin dall’ inizio, Se avete amato le ricerche sugli intervalli del nostro Franco D’Andrea se amale perderve nella materia sonora corraggiosa de Paul Bley e di John Taylor, ecco il disco per voi, in totale improvvazione
For over half a century the pianist English Riley leads ahead one lesson made of rigor and research, honest all-round intellectual "with the calm of a philosopher and precision of an engineer", as Brian Morton, who remembers having followed the events of the adventurous and placid musician from the beginning, writes in note, If you have loved research on intervals of our Franco D'Andrea if you love to lose in the courageous sound matter of Paul Bley and John Taylor, here is the album for you, in total improvisation.
Guido Festinese Alias / Il Manifesto, 6/27/ 2020