Album Review: Maria Chiara Argiro – Hidden Seas

Maria Chiara Argiro

Hidden Seas

(Cavalo Records CRMCACD01)

Italian keyboardist Maria Chiara Argirò maintains a busy presence around London’s cutting edge of jazz-based musical activities, most recently with Liran Donin’s post-Avishai Cohen outfit 1000 Boats. A formidably accomplished musician, she’s emblematic of the kind of international, wide-ranging scene that’s grown up in London, with musicians from across the world drawn to the vibrant scene arising from the various jazz undergraduate and post-graduate teaching courses. For this record she’s surrounded herself with a team of like-minded international collaborators, all of whom are equally at home working in the area where jazz intersects with other adventurous musical forms. Opening track Beneath The Surface introduces us to an impossible-to-categorise sound world where the structures of ECM style piano jazz intersect with the effects-laden sonorities of Tal Janes’ guitar and Leila Martial’s clear, evocative folk-inflected vocals to create a very individual, atmospheric and accessible song-based project. The mood is generally introspective but Argirò’s keyboards and production ideas combine with the range of textures produced by the band – bowed bass, percussion, artfully deployed analogue synths – to create a cinematic, widescreen impression that might reflect the influence of Argirò’s former employers, the art-rockers These New Puritans. From One Land To Another makes the contemporary jazz influences more obvious, but one of the pleasures of this highly characterful record is that it evades categorisation while still establishing a very clear identity. There’s an understated, carefully considered feel to the playing that belies the high level of virtuosity available when needed – on Watery Universe for instance – and the recurrent themes of watery elements and empty oceans are powerfully evoked. A really outstanding creation from a unique musical vision.

Eddie Myer

Maria Chiara Argirò, piano, keyboards; Sam Rapley, tenor sax; Tal Janes, guitar; Andrea Di Biase, bass; Gaspar Sena, drums; Leila Martial, vocals.