Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Review of Tom Arthurs / Richard Fairhurst’s Postcards From Pushkin
By John Fordham

Babel Label

Here's a little gem from pianist Richard Fairhurst and Berlin-based British flugelhornist Tom Arthurs (a man who's probably tired of being compared to Kenny Wheeler, but it's a compliment to his imagination and beautiful sound, not his powers of mimicry) for anyone who thinks contemporary jazz is an exercise in hiding tunes. Postcards from Pushkin is the outcome of a 2008–9 BBC and Royal Philharmonic Society commission, in which the pair conceived pieces inspired by Pushkin's poems. Arthurs' unhurried themes and melodic dances are observed or embellished by Fairhurst, or the two unfurl them in harness. Their improvisations can be tit-for-tat swaps or seamless entwinings, and both play unaccompanied features: Arthurs a register-leaping piece of hypnotic poignancy and growing emotional intensity; Fairhurst an intonational and harmonic minimalist exploration of the nuances of a repeated four-note descent. It's all spookily tranquil and confirms a master flugelhorn improviser at work.


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