Bridging ECM-style jazz and contemporary classical music by way of African, Indian, and other non-Western idioms would be ambitious enough—but attempting it with an electric guitar/harpsichord/ saxophone trio is entirely over the top. And that’s one of the reasons that this music is so satisfying. The album opener, “Kites,” begins with breathy sax notes by Ballamy (an accomplished jazz composer perhaps best known in the U.S. for his work with Bill Bruford’s Earthworks), leading into gamelan-like rhythmic patterns played on harpsichord by Chapman, followed by Wingfield’s mournful melodies and lush chord washes. Other pieces include the rollicking “Shufhah” (based on an 18th Century Hindustani air), the rhythmically intricate “African Sea” (derived from traditional mbira music), and a sort of English parlor version of an Ethiopian tribal song called “Sunbird.” Throughout these 12 compositions, Wingfield’s guitar playing is mysterious, majestic, and blazing in turns—Abercrombie, Rypdal, Metheny, and Beck all spring to mind—and his compelling blend of toothy distortion with horn- and woodwind-like synth patches provides a perfect foil to the more traditional colorings of the other instruments. This is a unique and sophisticated musical statement by three of England’s most accomplished players, as well as one of the year’s most engaging recordings. Dark Energy.
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