“Stepping Between the Shadows”
(Rufus/Universal RF095) ****
Alister Spence, Raymond MacDonald
"Alister Spence is one of the leading lights on the Australian Jazz Scene whose curriculum vitae includes work with the brilliant and oftyen inspired Clarion Fracture Zone with Sandy Evans and Tony Gorman and the Australian Art Orchestra with Paul Grabowsky. With his own Alister Spence Trio he has made some fine albums such as Flux, Fit and Mercury and has been a frequent visitor to these shores where recognition has been in direct disproportion to his often luminous virtuosity.
It was in the UK that he formed an association with The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra and developed a strong musical relationship with saxsophonist Raymond MacDonald.
This is their first albumtogether, recorded live at the Concert Hall, University of Glasgow in February last year. Clearly the planets were in the right conjuctionin the celestial sphere and promted some inspired music making. Spence, who can be a powerful and expansive pianistis content to reveal a more thoughtful and considered side to his musical personality such as the opening of 'TransHemispheres', as both he and MacDonald cautiously circleeach other before the saxophonist produces a passage that evokes several instruments in earnest dialogue. MacDonald is again compelling on 'Found on thre Way (b)' where he is largely performing solo, and on 'Northern Window (b)' where both pianist and saxsophonistmove the album to a thoughtful climax.
“Buddy” (Textile TCD24)
Raymond MacDonald International Big Band
"Raymond MacDonald has been making
interesting and intriguing records for some
time, most of them in concert with guitarist
George Burt. This album finds him in richly deserved company of heavyweights such as Jim O'Rourke and Satoko Fujii. From the brooding and angry 'Small Groups (Part 1) with some astonishing playing from Fujii and MacDonald, to the circus antics of 'The Big Toe' and the atmospheric 'Why I missed Cole Porter', with its unusually delicate guitar from O'Rourke. MacDonald has created an album of considerable emotional range.
Whether written, conducted or freely improvised as on 'View from The 17th Floor', these eight piecesstretch from the eerily beautiful to the darkly humorous in a way that remains focused and concise.
The playing, in the ensembles in particular, is wonderfully poised and lends the album a sense of completeness and integrity. Music this articulate is rare in any style and, for me, that makes it one of the very best records I've heard so far this year.