The Upshot: With surprisingly eclectic pieces, the jazz pianist switches to church organs for a program of instrumentals that straddle the line between improvisation and composition.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
British pianist Kit Downes has made a name for himself as a player of the first order, whether leading his own trio or performing with bands like Troyka, The Golden Age of Steam and Thomas Strønen’s Time is a Blind Guide. Obsidian, however, is a record of a different stripe. Temporarily putting aside his 88s, Downes instead employs three different church organs – from a full-blown pipe monster to a stripped-down, pedal-less instrument – for a program of instrumentals that straddle the line between improvisation and composition. The sparkling “Flying Foxes” and “Seeing Things” sound like they were made up as they went along, not in an annoying way, but in a delightful, playful one. “Rings of Saturn” and “Last Leviathan” lay back on long chords and deep atmospheres, like ancient recordings of ambient music. “Kings” and “Ruth’s Song For the Sea” come off as carefully composed, their airy drift a matter of intent. “Modern Gods” invites saxophonist Tom Challenger, who pushed Downes towards this project, to a whimsical duet of heavy chords and rhythmic horn honks. The pieces are surprisingly eclectic, given the singular sound of a pipe organ, and deserve more than simply admiration from afar, as if this was a classical recital. Obsidian settles into its environment like the scent of spring after a long winter.
DOWNLOAD: “Ruth’s Song For the Sea,” “Rings of Saturn,” “Seeing Things”