Some times dreamy, always engaging….

Andy Sheppard

Surrounded By Sea

ECM

June 2nd 2015

Andy Sheppard: tenor and soprano saxophones
Eivind Aarset: guitar
Michel Benita: double bass
Sebastian Rochford: drums

Extending the range of his widely-praised Trio Libero project with Michel Benita and Seb Rochford, Andy Sheppard adds Eivind Aarset (who made significant contributions to 2008’s Movements In Colour) to the band. With Aarset’s ambient drones and electronic textures as a backdrop, Sheppard and co seem to have even more space to explore. The music  includes new compositions, open improvisations, an Elvis Costello tune, and the Gaelic traditional ballad “Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir” which appears in three variations, a thematic thread through the album. This is Sheppard’s third album for ECM.

I’ve long been a fan of both Sheppard and Aarset, particularly the work the latter did with Nils Petter Molvaer, and it is good to hear the two of them working together in this setting. I totally disagree with Ivan Hewitt’s comments in the Telegraph about the guitarists contribution to this release, rather than dominate Eivind adds beautiful colours and tones to the trio and delivers some of his most restrained work to date. Ian Patterson’s All About Jazz review is far more complimentary and more accurately reflects the graceful and measured feel of the album. Benita and Rochford work well together giving Sheppard the space to explore and extemporise.

It’s an ECM album so it is going to have that Nordic “Eicher” touch, Sheppard has embraced that fully and delivers one of his most beautiful sets to date. The music is serene, offering an often pastoral atmosphere, sometimes dreamy, but always engaging. Comparisons with Jan Garbarek are inevitable in this context and there is some read over between the two horn men although Sheppard employs a warmer and sometimes more breathy tone, and the music is more urgent and dynamic than Garbarek’s approach.

Sheppard brings his quartet to Band on the Wall, Manchester on 24th November (from 7:30pm) for what promises to be one of the stand-out jazz gigs of the year in the city. Tickets are available here

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