Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Howard Riley - Constant Change 1976 - 2016 (NoBusiness Records, 2016)

Howard Riley is an well-respected British jazz pianist, teacher and composer. Throughout his career he has played with some of the leading lights of the British jazz scene, such as Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Tony Oxley, John McLaughlin and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. This retrospective covers solo recordings of original music that was recorded both live and in the studio over a forty year span. The first two compact discs, “Paris / Debrecen” and “Fingerprints” are collections of shorter performances ranging from two to nearly twenty minutes and which evoke a wide range of styles, from rhythmically percussive improvisations to gentle fantasias. The remaining three compact discs entitled “Mutability One, Two, and Three” are concert length improvisations of about an hour each, which were recorded over the past few years at Porcupine Studios in London. The music is somewhat reminiscent of the fully improvised solo piano concerts that Keith Jarrett used to perform, but Riley will also take advantage of extended techniques for the piano, in addition to improvising, or spontaneously composing, using the length and breadth of the instrument. Where the first two discs were broken into discrete pieces, the final three discs flow with a grace and serenity of a musician who has spent a lifetime refining his talent and approach to the keyboard and the arts of composition and improvisation, allowing him to showcase his innovations by extending and expanding his uniquely personal approach to music. His skill and technique is at a very high level, but it never overwhelms the music which remains accessible throughout the collection, with a sense of forward motion which seems to propel the sound, texture, and shading of his music. Much like Jarrett he acts as a conduit for musical information and theory, developing the music in both a historical and modern language. This is a very well designed package with liner information and photographs, and the music leaves a lasting impression on the listener, because Riley has a lot of knowledge and experiences which he chooses to impart to the listener in a thoughtful and respectful manner. Howard Riley - Constant Change 1976-2016 - nobusiness records.

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