1 March 2020

Album Review: Alabaster DePlume – To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1

Alabaster DePlume

To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1

(International Anthem IARC0030)

London-by-Manchester and spoken word-by-jazz musician Alabaster DePlume visits a collection of instrumentals from various settings and situations. It’s aspirational music, in the sense of breathing in and out – arrangements are loose but by no means sloppy, and the compositions are largely unhurried and plaintive, rarely drifting into wide, long jams.

There’s a lot here that’s worth listening to; arrangements are typically uncomplicated – a lead melody and some accentuation but there’s no instances of musicians doggedly articulating pulse or rhythm. Rather there’s a fair amount of parallel melodic motifs, sometimes unharmonised (as in Song of the Foundling), sometimes married to expressive pianistic harmonies (The Lucky Ones).

DePlume is a pretty delightful and expressive hornsman – rather than hitting every inversion and register of a melody, he prefers tighter control. There’s plenty of tremulous, hesitant tonguing (opener Visit Croatia) or more strident gestures (lullaby-esque Whisky Story Time). Like a opiated Ayler, perhaps. But also there are touches of Ethio-jazz (Song of the Foundling) recalling Getatchew Mekurya (according to the press release, Mekurya is a pretty conscious influence).

There’s an element to his playing that’s quite deliberately un-academic – Not My Ask features some subtle but effective dynamics and fluttering – the sort of careful analysis of a melody that doesn’t happen with tightly regimented playing. But also he’s by no means slack – the kind of rapid sforzando figure in the opening bars is effortlessly breezy but simultaneously super-controlled. It’s possible that the detail in his playing is subdued by the apparent simplicity of his arrangements but he’s certainly got a gift for colour and articulation.

It’s one of those records that’ll probably aggravate corners of the jazz world – there’s certainly little vanguarding here, and he’s clearly not inclined towards the aggressive blow-outs. It’s possibly also likely to be inviting to those outside of the jazz ‘hardcore’. But don’t let this put you off, he’s a fine player and these relaxed, plaintive, folk-ish melodies are beguiling and tastefully put together.

Kev Nickells

Album Review, Review 0 Replies to “Album Review: Alabaster DePlume – To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1”