"FEATHERS WITH JAKI"
Howard Riley piano with Jaki Byard piano on tracks 1 and 2. Recorded Royal Festival Hall, London, 29 August 1984.
Riley with Mario Castronari double bass and Tony Marsh drums, tracks 3 - 9. Recorded at Porcupine Studio, London, 10 January 1988.
1 Round midnight 17m 16s
2 Straight no chaser 4 27
3 Swigger swagger 7 00
4 Feathers 4 08
5 Subway one 4 53
6 Sweet but short 2 44
7 Yesterdays 7 39
8 Subway two 5 23
9 The clochard 5 32
In 1984 Riley played in a piano duo at the Royal Festival Hall with the prodigious US pianist and master of styles from stride to bop to free - Jaki Byard.
They played two celebrated Monk tunes - Round Midnight and Straight, No Chaser.
These have been combined with seven more tracks recorded in 1988 of a trio with Riley, Bassist Marion Castronari and drummer Tony Marsh to make the album Feathers With Jaki.
The meeting with Byard is phosphorescent.
The white man of West Yorkshire and the black man of Worcester, Massachusetts, play like long-lost brothers of piano.
Round Midnight is 17 minutes long and both pianists seem to be searching for its melody before it emerges mysteriously from the garden of sounds and a different sonic world form Overground.
It is still a "discussion" but one with a much more recognisable theme, as if the subject has been explicit, as it had, for decades of artistry by a New York genius who played his piano in his tiny apartment's kitchen.
It was one of those rare Anglo-US encounters like Benny Carter at Maida Vale, or Clayton with Lyttelton, Feldman with Adderley or Tracy with Rollins where rate and nationality simply dissolve in the splendour of the music.
The trio tracks are compelling too - listen to the vaunting Swigger Swagger where Castronari's bass twangs through Riley's pounding notes of the gentle Feathers where Marsh's cymbals contrast with the pianist's chiming pillars of sound.
Chris Searle. Morning Star 24 June 2014
JAZZ A welcome CD re-release of two deleted vinyl records featuring one of Europe’s most accomplished and adventurous pianists, first in dense, vigorous duos of Monk tunes with US master Jaki Byard (Festival Hall, 1984) and second with his masterful UK-based improvising trio (first released in 1988). Thoroughly recommended. Chris Parker
Contemporary Jazz Reviews Riley may not be so well-known in this country. He is an established English pianist who has played a major role in the development of Modern British and European jazz, playing with bassist/composer Barry Guy, the London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, saxophonist Elton Dean and many other prominent players on the free jazz/improvised music scene. Riley’s playing situations also cover solo piano, duos with Jaki Byard and Keith Tippett and trio and quarter work. This new recording from SLAM returns to the spotlight the majority of two excellent episodes in Riley’s recent history (which spans back some thirty-odd years). Firstly, there are two Monk pieces performed live at the Royal Festival Hall in 1984 with Riley in duet with pianist Jaki Byard. ‘Round Midnight’ opens the recording with a long and curious seventeen minute exploration, the two players arriving at a beautiful Trans-Atlantic symmetry, wringing the tune for all it’s worth in a fashion that delivers royally. They continue with a shorter, but no less original take on ‘Straight No Chaser’. The latter part of the CD presents a trio session from 1988 which was originally released on LP as ’Feathers’ on the Spotlite label. The sound is more upfront and immediate, with equal emphasis placed on Riley’s piano, Mario Castronari’s double bass and Tony Marsh’s drums. This unit is able to improvise as naturally as breathing and they set about creating melodic themes and textures that you’d swear were written down. You can certainly hear a deliberate momentum being created for the fullest exploration of the moment. This is excellent stuff and seems to reveal more of its intricacies with every successive play.
Since he started SLAM at the turn of the decade, George Haslam has built up a formidable catalogue that grows stronger with each release. This new release is atypical in some way, though. ‘Feathers with Jack’ consists of material previously available on vinyl on Leo and Spotlite, and is SLAM’s only reissue. Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’ and ‘Straight No Chaser’ are duos with Jaki Byard, taken from Live At The Royal Festival Hall (Leo), recorded in 1984. At the start, the two pianists are tentative, giving each other rather too much room. As they slowly warm up, the piece builds to a thunderous climax. The second track continues at this pitch, with the two trading phrases at high speed. The remainder consists of the entire Feathers album, a classic trio session with Mario Castronari and Tony Marsh. This is a wonderfully sympathetic grouping,with each member in topform, but each contributing to the whole. SLAM deserves our unqualified thanks for rescuing this music from "the vinyl graveyard".