Keith Tippett’s immediately identifiable musical individuality breaks away from the common norms of affinity with neighboring genres. This notwithstanding, it is impossible not to detect the influence of the most genuine spirit of big-band jazz in From Granite To Wind, which in a way appears as a recap of everything the pianist and composer has tackled over decades of activity, occasionally surrounded by an Ellingtonian aura of sorts. Besides himself and wife Julie, the group comprises a wealth of reeds (Paul Dunmall, James Gardiner-Bateman, Kevin Figes, Ben Waghorn) plus Peter Fairclough on drums and Thad Kelly on bass. The recordings occurred in early 2011, the music as fresh as baked bread.
Following an introduction for solo piano, the composition exposes themes and refrains with salubrious enthusiasm, the ensemble diving right into the rapids of a swinging river where instrumental legibility remains a must nevertheless. Circa 17 minutes in, the whole slows down quite noticeably, the interaction shifting from intermingled saxophone lines to Julie Tippetts’ rendition of her texts defining moments of smoky respite. There’s some space for reflection after the preceding high-energy runs, the ballad-like qualities of the material creating opportunities for an extremely refined kind of orchestral circumspection. It’s nice to see that, once again, the exemplary democracy of Tippett’s scores stands at the forefront: a general consistency of colors, tones and rhythms that is beautiful to perceive, even during the sections in which several forces are superimposed, apparently contrasting each other. Brilliant soloists donating their souls to the collective cause without the private arrogance typical of many affirmed jazzists, for that type of behavior is not allowed in this family.
Exactly at the thirtieth minute, the music’s libertarian traits are back with a vengeance, rarefied pitches and fragile harmonic hints originating an improvisation that, in turn, introduces another section defined by an alteration of song structure and disciplined freedom. That goes on until the splendid conclusion, based on the mere resonance of breathing. The ability of meshing whispered suggestions and persuasive statements is just one of the outstanding values of this work, the balance between intelligible complication and reserved modesty constituting the winning move. Thinking about it, has Keith Tippett ever given us less than important records to cogitate on? It certainly doesn’t seem so.