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Siobhan Lamb/Gerard Presencer: Meditations/The Nightingale and the Rose – review



The crossover fanbase that turned Jan Garbarek's collaborations with the Hilliard Ensemble into hits might be the target for these painterly soundscapes by composer Siobhan Lamb – with their solemn choral textures, subtle tonal blends, references to jazz, classical and European church music, and trumpet improvisations by the virtuoso Gerard Presencer. Meditations, which threads poetry (by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Burns and Emily Dickinson) through the sounds of adult and children's choirs and a chamber-strings ensemble, is the less jazzy of the two. Its changing shapes, from phrase-swapping vocal repeats on My Bonnie to strings over rumbling drums, often push the silver-toned Presencer into more intriguing improvisational corners. The companion disc The Nightingale and the Rose is a large-scale venture for Denmark's Radio Big Band and National Vocal Ensemble, setting a text by Oscar Wilde within Gil Evans-like blends of woodwinds and low brass sounds, swing, slowly thumping marches, and some scything electric guitar improv in the third movement. Presencer plays everything with typical grace, and Lamb's writing is a real marriage of classical and jazz, though perhaps without drawing much on the newer incarnations of either. But these are ambitious syntheses, and beautifully delivered.

Rating: 3/5

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