Into Darkness / Darkness Pass

4.5 hours of solo (only) improvised (mostly) piano.

This is the first part of an extended mix of solo improvised piano that I have put together. It was too large to upload as one file, but parts one (Into Darkness) two (The Fire Within) and three (Darkness Pass) can all be found on Mixcloud with full track listings. Available for download here.

Most of it could be classed as ‘jazz’, but for me the word doesn’t sit right. It is simply solo (only) improvised (mostly) piano, with some exceptions for classical pieces that I really love (and that sound kind of improvised, even though they aren’t). I think Barry Harris was right when he said that 20c improvisers took over where Stravinsky, Schoenberg and the classical avant-garde left off. (That is not to imply an idea of linear progression / development / influence, but rather that different musicians converged on the same harmonic language, and harmonic problems, from different directions.) The first track here, from Nduduzo Makhathini’s momentous 2017 album ‘Reflections’, sounds as much like Webern or Berg as Monk or Ellington. So Bud Powell and Brad Mehldau sound like Bach, and Shostakovich sounds like Bill Evans, who sounds like Debussy, who sounds like Philip Glass.

The whole mix is trying to explore those beautiful regions at the intersections of jazz, extended harmony and modern classical, from the thunderous resonance of McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett to the minimalism and quietude of Arvo Pärt and Nils Frahm. It is also weighted towards Africa South because we are so blessed in solo pianistic experimenters: Abdullah Ibrahim, Bheki Mseleku, Moses Molelekwa, Kyle Shepherd, to name only a few that appear here. This first part takes its name from Shepherd's 2012 album recorded in a small village in Japan (on those tracks you can hear the cicadas and nocturnal insects in the background).

The only exceptions to the insistence on solo (only) piano are 1) the impassioned groans from Jarrett (Live at Royal Festival Hall, London 2008, a concert I was fortunate enough to attend) and singing from Mseleku (Meditation Suite, 1994); but these can be put down to ‘vocal acknowledgement’ and 2) Nils Frahm’s Tristana, which slipped through the net, because I forgot that a melodica (?) enters late into the piece (and the mix was recorded in real time, so I couldn’t delete - anyway it's so beautiful). I have also put in some short recordings of my own playing, as a tribute to these masters, and one in particular, but ideally you won’t notice.

00:00 Nduduzo Makhathini: Ase (Reflections, 2017) | 04:22 Kyle Shepherd: Ebhofolo (Into Darkness, 2012) | 12:09 Keith Jarrett: Part I: Royal Festival Hall, London (Paris / London: Testament, 2008) | 23:16 Nils Frahm: Ode (Solo, 2015) | 27:44 Brad Mehldau: Waltz for J.B. (10 Years Solo Live, 2015) | 33:53 Max Richter: A Woman Alone (Hostiles, 2018) | 35:44 Bheki Mseleku: Meditation Suite (Meditations, 1994) | 1:08:06 Nduduzo Makhathini: Duduzile (Reflections, 2017) | 1:13:00 Anders Widmark: Din nåd står vakt omkring mitt hus BWV 345 Version I (Piano/Hymn, 2004) | 1:16:54 Sergei Prokofiev: Prelude to Cinderella Suite, Transcribed for Two Pianos | 1:19:27 Ravi Shankar: Venezia (Piano: Florian Uhlig, Venezia, 2001) | 1:24:20 Arvo Pärt: Für Alina (Piano: Alexander Malter, Alina, 1999) | 1:35:14 Keith Jarrett: Part IV: Royal Festival Hall, London (Paris / London: Testament, 2008).