Tuesday 7 May 2013

Attractive Flute and Piano music with a jazz influence by Geoff Eales on a new release from Nimbus

Geoff Eales (b.1950) www.geoffeales.com , born in Aberbargoed in South Wales, began his musical education at the age of eight when his jazz loving father taught him to play the 12-bar blues and introduced him to some of the great piano masters.

Eales’ conventional musical education began whilst a pupil at Lewis School, Pengam, where he learnt classical piano and the French horn, later playing with the Glamorgan Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales www.nyaw.co.uk . He went on to Cardiff University where he achieved a first-class honours and a master's degree and, in 1980, was awarded his doctorate in music for a thesis on structure in the symphonic works of Aaron Copland.

Rather than pursue an academic career, Eales decided to broaden his horizons by working as a ship's musician for a couple of years, travelling the world and absorbing the music of many different cultures, something that would have a tremendous impact on his later work.

Eales moved to London in 1977, joining the BBC Big Band and working with some of the best arrangers in the business including Nelson Riddle, Billy May and Robert Farnon and many fine jazz vocalists such as Norma Winstone, Rosemary Clooney and Marian Montgomery. By the time he left in 1983, he had been featured in well over a thousand broadcasts.

Eales went on to become one of the most sought-after session pianists in London working alongside a host of musicians such as Leonard Bernstein, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith, Lalo Schifrin and Andrew Lloyd Webber and as an accompanist with such singers as Shirley Bassey, Andy Williams, Jose Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa. Returning to his jazz roots in 1999, Eales released his debut jazz album, Mountains of Fire to enthusiastic reviews. Since then, a steady stream of highly acclaimed jazz albums has flowed.

Throughout the period of his jazz renaissance, Eales has performed at many of the world's leading clubs and concert halls and has collaborated with other contemporary jazz artists such as Nigel Hitchcock, Chris Garrick, Laurence Cottle, Chris Laurence, Roy Babbington, Martin France, Ian Thomas and Mark Fletcher.

Nimbus Alliance www.wyastone.co.uk have just released a new recording of works for flute and piano by Geoff Eales, performed by the composer and flautist Andy Findon www.andyfindon.co.uk who also has a mixed musical background having trained as an orchestral flautist, serving as principal flute of the National Youth Orchestra, and studying for three years at the Royal College of Music. From here he branched out, playing with dance bands, working for Nat Temple, Joe Loss, Eric Delaney & Sidney Lipton among others as well as Ballet Rambert www.rambert.org.uk , The National Theatre www.nationaltheatre.org.uk  and the formation of the Myhra Saxophone Quartet with John Harle. He has played with an enormous list of renowned international artists, composers, arrangers and producers.

Nimbus rightly do not categorise the music on this new CD, merely stating that the music is a paean to the life-enhancing qualities of the dance. Certainly the influence of jazz runs through most of the music but there is much more.
NI 6216
The first work on the disc is Eternal Dance that opens with a repeated motif from the piano before the flute joins, continuing with a bouncing rhythmic theme. There is some fine playing from Eales as well as flautist Andy Findon. This is a light, somewhat jazz influenced piece.

Song for my Mother has an extended opening for piano before the flute enters in a light, nostalgic melody. Again it is very jazz influenced, particularly in the piano part that has a major contribution.

In the pocket has both players leaping around in wide intervals, playing in unison music that brings to mind the style of Olivier Messiaen, before developing into a jazzy theme of more substance. There is a slower central piano section before the flute joins in the slower languid melody. Eventually the music returns to its original faster Messiaen style theme.

Remembrance is a restful piece with a wistful piano opening before the flute joins in with something of a filmic quality.

A rapid repeated motif for both players opens Elf Dance before the music descends to a syncopated theme. The music slows to a quieter section as the flute weaves a lovely solo melody before the piano re-joins and the music speeds up to the syncopated rhythm. The music slows again to a thoughtful piano section but the syncopated rhythm can’t be held back and returns to bring about the end.  

Andy Findon changes to the alto flute for Lochria’s Rumba a piece that has a lovely melody reinforced by an underlying rhythm.

I suppose many will consider the penny whistle to be, at best, a novelty instrument, however, with In The Eyes Of A Child, Andy Findon gives a spectacularly accomplished performance of this piece, that has a definite Celtic lilt. There is rich accompaniment from the piano in this very effective piece that stands out in this collection.

The piano opens Farewell Patagonia with the Latin rhythms of the tango before being joined by the flute in another particularly attractive piece, light, fun, but very attractive. There is a central section for solo piano finely played by Geoff Eales.

The Sad Little Geisha Girl has a flute melody somewhat reminiscent of Debussy before the piano enters with slow chords. Subtle little slides on the flute add to the atmosphere in this, the longest piece on this CD. This piece provides a strange combination of Debussy and jazz inflected piano writing to great effect.

Findon picks up the piccolo for Force 11 with an opening that has a rumbling stormy motif for piano before the piccolo enters in a tempestuous, riotous theme. Later the piano opens a new theme, a syncopated tune with some terrific playing form Findon.

The piano opens Ice Maiden with a pointed rhythm before the richly melodious tone of the bass flute enters, continuing the sultry Latin rhythm. This is a really attractive piece that also stands out.

Pan Dance brings a rapidly rhythmic melody for flute and piano that scurries along in an unstoppable manner that one would associate with Pan. There is a sensuous slow section before a return to the opening tempo.

Finally there is the nostalgic The Last Kiss opening with the piano before the flute enters with a lovely melody, a slow waltz. This languid piece rises to a slight climax before ending.

This is attractive music mainly in a lighter vein with Eales’ jazz influence running through most of it. In certain works such as The Eyes Of A Child and Ice Maiden, Eales does seem to catch a deeper vein. The recording is very good, though occasionally the piano sound is a little close.


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