Thursday, 22 October 2009

Blues and Soul Review: Mesmer

Mesmer - Tom Arthurs and Richard Fairhurst

Published in Blues and Soul July 8th

Trumpeter of the moment Tom Arthurs and pianist Richard Fairhurst release their first collaborative record on Babel, a mature, brave and stark album featuring just flügelhorn and piano. Mesmer is simple sounding but subtle, with a mischievous, playful design. It is a sort of conversation, a game of chess or a debate in tongues that is comic and melancholy in equal measure. In places the flügelhorn and piano are so entwined you wonder if Arthurs and Fairhurst are possessed of superhuman powers of concentration (‘Up From Sloth’ and ‘Anguilla’ are examples). Elsewhere they play as solo (‘Beautiful Indifference’ and ‘Keepsake’) or occasionally at odds.
This isn’t an easy record and takes time to understand, meaning Parkinson won’t be play-listing it any time soon. Its melodies may be too complex for the casual listener, and in places even overworked. Fans of a more vigorous, rhythmic and red-blooded jazz may also find Mesmer overly pensive, devoid of thrust and instrumental variety. What it does achieve, though, is luxurious exposure for two beautiful instruments, both generously pitched in a vast, open space to accentuate their details. In Tom Arthurs the flügelhorn couldn’t have a better ambassador, controlling the instrument with a tone that is both strong and eccentric. Fairhurst, meanwhile, plays delicately and with understanding, and has a hint of Bill Evans in his ability to play with intensity in a free, loose form. Between them, these two young players have made a confident record, rejecting the ideal of a grand, domineering debut in favour of a job well done