Thursday 12th January

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I have been listening, purely by chance as they happened to come to the top of the pile together, a couple of albums over the past day or two involving pianos, played both inside and outside. They are both very lovely indeed. The one I am going to save for tomorrow’s write-up is a disc by Thanos Chrysakis and Philip Somervell, but tonight some thoughts on a set of three brief improvisations by Tisha Mukarji (piano) and Angharad Davies (violin). The disc in question isn’t really a commercially available release as such. It is a self-released CDr in a handmade sleeve. My copy was kindly given to me by the musicians when they recently played a trio set alongside Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoa in London, and they had a handful more for sale on the night. An email exchange with Tisha today told me that while there aren’t really enough copies to think about distribution of any kind any interested parties should drop her a message. Tisha can be contacted via her website. Whether you are interested in the CD or not, I suggest you visit Tisha’s site anyway as there is some very interesting material there.

This CDr then contains three pieces recorded very nicely in Berlin in April last year. The longest lasts seven minutes and the entire disc clocks in at slightly under twenty minutes, but in that time the duo pack some very fine music in. This untitled release carries on from where Endspace their Another Timbre album from a couple of years ago left off, but it also allows the now well established duo evolve further. If Endspace was a very beautiful release of delicate, finely structured chamber improv, this new suite is the same and yet also something more- there is a more full, expressive feel to the music, still very beautiful, still a subtle blend of textures and tones with plenty of air to breathe, but perhaps a little more rich in twisting, wiry interplay. The music sounds thoroughly involved, a conversation between two highly skilled musicians completely confident in each other and so able to relax into something very heartfelt and sincere. If that sounds an odd thing to say about a recording of this kind of music perhaps I should add that it doesn’t sound forced, and there is no sense of feeling out common ground. The music sounds thoroughly joyful, as if the two feel like they should play together far more often than they do, and so relish every opportunity, throwing everything in and enjoying every second.

Mukarji’s sound is entirely piano-like but is mostly formed inside the instrument, with few direct notes played on the keys. She rubs, strikes, and bows both eh strings and the body of the piano, so creating a sound world as full of cavernous wooden booms as much as lightly picked out chimes. Davies’ violin is as subtly superb as ever. The disc opens with a remarkably airy noteless breathing that she somehow conjures from her instrument, which I had to stop and play over a few times before I would even accept it was a violin. Her playing continues in such a beautifully balanced vein from there on, mixing such softly presented sounds with actually some of the most active, muscular playing I have heard from Angharad in quite a while elsewhere on the disc. What makes this duo, and these recordings so great to my ears though is the interaction between the pair, the way they just fit together so easily to form the music, seemingly effortless and yet also clearly the result of great skill and years of listening and practice. This is one that will appeal to a wide range of improvised music listeners. There is still a Felmanesque simplicity to the music that will attract one end of the spectrum, but also a tightly entangled sense of conversation that will draw in everyone else. It is just a great example of how good improvised music can be when a pairing really clicks. Fine, fine stuff then. I don’t often write about tiny non-commercial releases like this, but this one is such a pleasure that I hope many of you email Tisha and force her into making some more copies.

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