Alabaster dePlume


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Copernicus (2012), 7.5/10
The Jester (2013), 5/10
Peach (2015), 5/10
The Corner Of A Sphere (2018), 5/10
Gold - Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love (2022), 6.5/10
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Manchester-born, London-based saxophonist and spoken-word artist Alabaster dePlume (Angus Fairbairn) surprised the scene of folk music with Copernicus (2012), an unlikely meeting point of jazz, folk, world-music, classical music and variety shows, delicately and elegantly arranged with flute, piano, cello, trombone and saxophone, full of nostalgic melodies that hark back to a carefree, cheerful era. The whispered I Don't Know for voice, choir and acoustic guitar sits somewhere between children's lullabies and plantation songs. There are hints of Lol Coxhill in the instrumental folk-jazz fanfare of Song of the Foundling (which ends with a Chinese-style choir) and in the lazy free-jazz jam of I Hope. Hold the Night evokes Donovan singing one of his hippy elegies in a smoky dancehall of the 1930s. There are hints of the Penguin Cafè Orchestra in the Caribbean folk of My Curmudgeon, with an ukulele-style guitar, in the sleepy chamber adagio Why Buzzardman Why?, in the ethereal chant Dear Soul, which straddles the border between Celtic jig, baroque toccata and musichall skit. Visit Croatia is an impressionistic sax, cello and piano sonata. Too bad for the spoken-word pieces that detract from what would otherwise be a magical experience. His forte is the combination of old-fashioned melodies and world-fusion instrumental creativity.

The Jester (2013) was a collaboration with pianist Daniel Inzani and a chamber ensemble (horns, strings and percussion). low-key moody jazz (The Real Business, Even Once) and low-key jazz ballads (Tell Me), sometimes bordering on classical music (The Jester).

The dose of folk is much reduced on Peach (2015), which also feels like a collection of unfinished ideas. The brief pieces span a broad spectrum of styles but rarely coalesce into substantial music. The main attractions are moribund jazz elegies like Not Now Jesus, Snake Tie and If You're Sure You Want To. Spoken-word pieces further sabotage the atmosphere.

The Corner Of A Sphere (2018) is mostly a spoken-word album with elegant and vaporous arrangements. There is a bit of Tom Waits in I Want A Red Car, and Did You Ever Hear About The Mau Mau, one of his artistic peaks, builds a sinister atmosphere out of slowly morphing repetition, but the rest is somnolent and uninspired.

The compilation To Cy & Lee - Instrumentals Vol 1 (2020) contains several of the elegant orchestrations of the previous albums as well as the highly melodic What is Missing.

I Was Not Sleeping (2020) was a collaboration with synth player Dan "Danalogue" Leavers that contains The Lucky Ones.

The double album Gold - Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love (2022) was an ambitious endeavor that involved several female vocalists, several guitarists, several percussionists including a tabla player, several synth players, a cellist, a pianist, and even a mimeophon player. Particularly prominent are the vocal harmonies, which often replace the solo singing with their wordless arias. The music floats gentle and unhurried, carried by a slow current of images, bordering on anemic exotica in I'm Good At Not Crying, surrealistic musichall in Do You Know A Human Being When You See One?, and agonizing plantation song in Again. His forte are not the tiptoeing abstractions for chamber ensemble and choir: The Sound Of My Feet On This Earth Is A Song To Your Spirit and Visitors YT15B - Jerusalem, Palestine. Even more "free form" are the rhythm-less duet of saxophone and choir Mrs Calamari and the psychedelic suspense of Visitors YT15 - Krupp Steel Condition Pivot. There is a singular emotional power in the brainy background muzak bordering on vaporware of the two closing (and longest) pieces: Broken Like and Now. His art is unique, a post-depression Nick Drake performing in jazz lofts with female vocalists who normally sing on Greek tragedies. An unusual burst of energy propels the pounding elephant dance Visitors XT8B - Oak, but it is just a blip on the radar. Luckily there are few spoken-word pieces.

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )