The banner of jazz has always been a vast one; what falls under it can vary from the steamboat groups of New Orleans, big bands, and spin-off bands that created bebop to virtuoso horn players to vocalists with smoky voices that tug at the heartstrings. Jazz has travelled so far that it can blur and shape into what is lazily described as World Music, and this is where we find the latest offering from multi-instrumentalist – although his chosen instrument is saxophone – Richard Davies.
His album, A Pagan Landscape, is more of an audio landscape inspired by the Cornish village of Trewellard, which was once home to tin mines and forgotten industries. Davies describes the album as an album about ghosts, and there is a haunting quality throughout that hints at the isolation of a forgotten place. The music itself is beautifully arranged, the sax is part of the music rather than used for wailing solos, and I think it benefits from this approach.
Nordic sax player Jan Garbarek has been an inspiration in his playing, but I hear similarities to ‘Love Theme’ from the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis in the echo and effects used on the instrument, particularly on ‘A Hollow House’.
It’s a trippy, eery exploration and drifts into electro music here and there, and although on the surface, it might feel as if not very much going on, it’s sensitively produced and is easy to fall into and lose yourself within its grasp. As an album, I really liked it. I’ve listened to it a couple of times, and the album seems to grow stronger with each listen; tracks such as ‘Carn Euny’, ‘The Ancients’ and ‘Pendeen to Trewellard’ keep me hooked, and music like this deserves more recognition.
If you demand horn players from your jazz, this might not be for you. This is more of a jazz/ambient hybrid that uses the sax as the missing piece to an already interesting landscape, but if you are intrigued by hearing what the instrument can do when accompanied by subtle percussion and dreamy synth, kick back, grab a drink and a dark evening and play this album because it’s quite unlike anything I’ve heard in a long time.