‘Hume’s palette is notably wide,moving from a flush of watery tones to delicate piano parts’
DAVID KEENAN “THE WIRE”
‘Hume weaves impressionistic textures reminiscent of Debussy’
CHRISTIAN CAREY “SPLENDID”
‘haunting songs that scream for a spot in a movie soundtrack’
FRANCOIS COUTURE “AMG”
‘intriguing and often haunting’
ANDY HAMILTON “JAZZREVIEW”
Gravity and Grace
‘THE WIRE’ Jan 09
Pianist Carolyn Hume is best known for the series of albums she cut with percussionist Paul May that took in aspects of European improvisation, chamber music and classic jazz. This is her second solo recording for Leo, though the first to present her talents as arranger and songwriter. Hume’s music has always been characterised by a particularly Anglo-Saxon type of Weltschmertz. the melancholy of an AE Housman, Denton Welch or WG Sebald and ‘Gravity and Grace’ presents a series of settings for piano, cello and voice that feel closer in atmosphere to the tradition of a dreamtime Albion as imagined by John Tavener, Kate Bush and Coil than any of her earlier, more jazz based recordings.
Hume’s piano playing is evocative without ever being sentimental, sounding slow,hymnal chords and ascending melodies beneath Sonja Galsworthy’s rapturous vocal and Oliver Coates’s cello “tommy 1940” feels like a requiem for the English Neverland that British soldiers left behind during the Second World War, and seems to echo the English artist Louis Wain’s Tommy Catkins character, the eternal boy soldier,dreaming of England while serving at the front.
Despite the slightly portentous atmosphere,Hume never relies on simplistic eulogy, and her background in improvisation means that she is able to deconstruct melodies and provide a degree of emotional shading that is complex and unresolved while still connecting with traditions of English devotional music. It feels like a step forward, a moving away from the looser, improvised style of her previous releases and a connection to something that feels more personally sourced, something that, in retrospect, her playing always hinted at.
As it is, Gravity and Grace announces an arresting new voice in contemporary English composition.
Review of ‘Solo Piano Works’
Jean Buzelin – Jazzman Magazine
**** Like the Dusk
Separated from her drummer Paul May who accompanied and guided her in their dream-like musical journeys, the English pianist Carolyn Hume, after four Cds in duo, is confronted with herself. Irredeemably alone. On the edge of the abyss. The risk was great, not so much of sinking into, as of abandoning herself to her metaphysical torments.
Across nine pieces, developed in a generally sombre tone, played with a great economy of style and without the least effect – somewhere between Satie and Mal Waldron – and in an atmosphere of misty landscape worthy of the films of Dreyer, Sjostrom or Bergmann, Carolyn Hume floats. She goes to the meeting place of infinity, nothingness and tragedy; that which puts itself deeper than being; but she doesn’t illustrate it, doesn’t comment.‘Restraint’, ‘obsession’, ‘absence’, ‘silence’ ‘winter’, ‘solitude’ and ‘madness’ . . . are some of the words that figure in the titles of her improvisations. We imagine her, like the isolated characters of Caspar David Friedrich, facing landscapes which overwhelm and engulf her but of which she accepts the untameable immensity with a non-tortured romanticism.
Her music, stripped, forever awaits resolution, suspended. But she beautifully provokes – even feeds – the sadness and the melancholy to the point of rendering them quasi-obsessional. I could listen to this record all day long – she drifts like a little lamp which glimmers in the mist, the immensity and the depth of the night. And which, finally, leads us to inner peace. One question: who is Carolyn Hume?
CAROLYN HUME, Solo Piano Works, Leo Records
Published 17th dec 2006
Hume’s previous four leo albums with the drummer,Paul may,created a user friendly variant of free jazz that was both tuneful and fashionable. Similarly,these ten,mostly improvised solo piano pieces prove impeccably ambient and easy on the ear;even when the notes are discordant,they make very attractive patterns as they fall.It’s not far away from the hazy doodlings of Satie,Gurdjieff or the piano theme from the film ‘Diva’,with often minute modulations or subtle shadings revealing a constantly shifting colour-field for the perceptions of the listener.All very nice too.Someone needs to make Carolyn Hume a star.
Jazzowy Alchemik- Jazz Alchemist 2011
Fourth Page’s music is minimal yet adventurous and open minded. The playing is captivating yet completely ego-less. Paul May deserves a lot of credit for his melodic playing and he brings and unusual bag of sounds and selects them carefully – tiny bells, metal sticks, metallic tinges, melodic clicks, bowed and scratched plates. Carolyn Hume’s playing is enchanting – spare and delicate chords that resonate in the silence, a brilliant sense of harmony, subtle, fragile, feminine. Pete Marsh intuitively frames the right mood and the momentum of the piece, sometimes he creates a strong melodic basis with just a few notes of repetitive pattern (“Times Like These”), sometimes raises the dramaturgy with a powerful stroke of the strings (“Cut Deep”) or enhances the noir mood with a long bowed notes (“Summon to me”). Charlie Beresford guitar is played spare with clear resonating notes immersed in the piece’s structure and mood. Although he’s way of singing/reciting seems often emotionless it conveys the mood perfectly and his poetic sense of timing and melody is brilliant.
This music is cold, hushed, pensive, silent, rainy, distant and uttelry sad yet it’s also absolutely gripping (could be an improvised example of sadcore if we want to put labels on it). It draws you in. Slowly, steadily, making it hardly noticeable till you’re completely immersed in their surreal world, surprised to hear the music has ended and time has already passed by.
Dark like a starless night, beautifully poetic, delicate, haunting, seductive. Compellingly unique and not to be missed.
John Eyles – All About Jazz 2011
Blind Horizons is the second album of 2011 from Fourth Page, the rapid follow-up to its debut, Along the Weak Rope, released on Forwind in May. Fourth Page consists of vocalist and guitarist Charlie Beresford, pianist Carolyn Hume, bassist Peter Marsh and drummer Paul May. There are long-standing links between Hume, May and Marsh. May has been the pianist’s drummer of choice for several years now, notably on their impressive series of duo albums on Leo dating back as far as 2000. May and Marsh have collaborated frequently as the rhythm section of several groupings, notably in the improvising trio Elvers (Forwind, 2011). Prior to Fourth Page, Beresford seems to have had no previous connections to the other three, but had released albums of his own down-tempo, atmospheric songs.
The remarkable—maybe unique—thing about Fourth Page is that together they freely improvise and evolve songs complete with lyrics, vocals and skeletal melodies. While an ensemble such as The Magic ID has effectively combined improvisation with song forms, it has, most often, employed existing song melodies and lyrics rather than improvising its own. Therein lies the difference; Fourth Page takes improvised music to exciting places it hasn’t really been before.
The quartet’s crucial element is Beresford’s voice, and that point is made eloquently on the album’s twelve-minute opener, “Summon you to me.” For its first half, it is an improvised piece consisting of sparse atmospheric phrases from bowed guitar, piano, bass and drums punctuated by plenty of space. The four are accomplished improvisers, so their phrases combine together effectively into an engaging and enthralling improvisation which could have happily continued for the full length of the track. But, after five-and-a-half minutes, Beresford’s voice enters and the focus of the piece shifts dramatically. The music continues much as before but now it seems to accompany the voice; the effect is like one of those optical illusions in which the same thing is seen instantaneously in a different way—here, the entry of the vocals alters the way the music is heard.
Beresford’s voice is an expressive melodic instrument ideally suited to conveying his lyrics, which seem chosen as much for their sound as for conveying a narrative. In some ways, Fourth Page could be considered a continuation of the long and honourable history of jazz accompaniment to poetry which dates back to the Beats and beyond. However, Beresford sings instead of reciting, and the emotion of what he sings is at least as important as any literal meaning.
There is no obvious premeditated form to the music, but Hume, Marsh and May are adept at reacting to Beresford’s guitar, vocals and phrasing, adding subtle interjections that emphasise and heighten their dramatic effect. Time and again across the seven tracks, the foursome engages in spontaneous creation, the end results seeming like a minor miracle. Across the whole album, the music retains a consistent sound and mood, a delicate impressionism that is highly distinctive and makes compelling listening. Stunning.
Track Listing: Summon you to me; Blind horizons; Cut deep; Times like these; Melancholy orbits; Buried limb; On the waking edge.
Personnel: Charlie Beresford: vocals, acoustic guitar, khaen; Carolyn Hume: piano; Peter Marsh: bass; Paul May: percussion.
Carolyn Hume and Paul May
Come to Nothing
Phil Johnson, The Independent 2010
More dreamy, indefinite improvisations from pianist Hume, reunited with percussionist May after a couple of excellent solo albums.
Typically, she plays a few plangent, well-spaced notes while he rattles away in the background, sounding like he’s coming from a Piranesi dungeon rather than a church in Weybridge, the venue for the recording. She’s air and he’s earth, and although there’s no obvious link between the pieces, the view remains very pleasant. It’s mystifying why the formula – free music that sounds nice – hasn’t caught on.
Carolyn Hume and Paul May
Come to Nothing
Stef, Avant Music News 2010
With “Come To Nothing”, pianist Carolyn Hume, pushes the boundaries of her recent “Gravity and Grace”. The minimalist romanticism is still omnipresent, but May’s percussive power gives the music depth, or adding an environment that is menacing and dark. May limits himself to make screeching sounds on his cymbals, or give sparse hits on his drums, or create some rumbling effects, but with great impact. All improvisations are in the same vein, with the downside that not all pieces manage to get their own identity, but otherwise the album has a fantastic atmospheric unity. Whether it’s jazz is of course another, and possibly irrelevant question.
Review of ‘Gravity and Grace’
‘Jazz Review’ Oct ’08 – Glenn Astarita
Keyboardist Carolyn Hume gained notoriety via her five ambient-minimalist albums with drummer Paul May for U.K. based Leo Records. As this recording serves as a follow-up to her 2007 issued Solo Works outing. Here, she augments the grand schema with cellist Oliver Coates and vocalist Sonja Galsworthy for a minimalist-type setting that highlights Hume’s melodic gifts amid chamber-hued persuasions.
Hume designs a somber story and delves inward for the preponderance of this irrefutably compelling album. And on select movements, Galsworthy renders hauntingly beautiful vocals atop the probing, thematic developments. At times ethereal, Hume’s piano voicings are largely delicate yet resonating. She’s a story-teller due to her softly woven passages and somewhat animated line of attack. The portraitures she engineers are dark, and tender but quietly penetrating.
Coates launches the piece titled “This Dark Kernel,” with sorrowful lines, followed by Hume’s melancholic and ever-so-gentle chord progressions as she maps out a course that might intimate a personal loss of some sort. Hence, her music is subtly powerful and quite vivid. Few artists can actually and perhaps effectively communicate such a deeply personal succession of storylines. With this 2008 endeavour, Hume invites the willing listener into her harmonically resplendent world that conveys notions of spiritual reckoning or perhaps appreciating the fundamentals of life.
As well as the reviews for ‘Solo Piano Works‘ reproduced above, you can read more on the following web sites:
By Lakes Abandoned Carolyn Hume and Paul May
By Phil Johnson
Published: 06 July 2001
After almost 11-and-a-half – count ’em – hours of Ken Burns’s Jazz series on BBC2, it’s tempting to revive that old chestnut so favoured by Fifties tweed-jacketed commentators and ask, earnestly of course, whither jazz now? Supposing that the art form manages to survive at all after such a monumental history/obituary, one can start by looking as far beyond our Ken as it’s possible to get. The album By Lakes Abandoned by Carolyn Hume and Paul May (Leo Lab CD 077) may well best represent this terra incognita. Last year, the unknown British keyboards and percussion duo produced a remarkable début, Zero (also on Leo Lab), that I chose as my jazz record of the year, at least partly because it didn’t sound remotely like anything else. Logically, the follow-up is fairly similar to its predecessor, with questing piano chords partnered by drum’n’bassy rhythms, but there’s still nothing else on the jazz radar that comes close.
Hume plays more electronic keyboards than before, but otherwise the pattern is pretty much the same. Ambient, echo-laden, melodies slowly cohere against a background of busy, rather biscuit-tin lid, drum patterns, interrupted occasionally by the reticent clarinet of Duke Garwood or, on one track, by the voice of Sonja Galsworthy. Sometimes the music is so self-effacing that it barely exists, but the 10 tunes cast a powerful spell, none the less. Perhaps best of all is the astonishing attention to acoustic detail. Subtle effects are rendered distinctive because the musical marks are made on such a shockingly blank canvas. There’s no show-offy musicianship, no self-conscious chasing of a theme, and almost no sense of jazz history whatsoever. Apparently, Hume and May just made it up themselves. And sorry Ken, they probably didn’t even ask permission. The album is available from www.atlas.co.uk/leorecords.
Zero Carolyn Hume and Paul May
By Phil Johnson
Published: 15 December 2000
Jazz Album of the Year 2000
CAROLYN HUME, PAUL MAY |Zero (Leo Lab) Although there were great jazz albums this year by Don Byron, Charles Lloyd, DD Jackson, Andy Sheppard, Uri Caine, Dave Douglas, Georgie Fame, Brad Mehldau and Annette Peacock, this piano-and-drums duo-set by two British musicians completely unknown to me continues to resonate more than most. Over nine original compositions, all credited to both players, the pianist Hume and the drummer May create a beguiling soundscape whose delicate shifts of mood and texture are simple but extraordinarily effective. Typically, Hume plays hard, repetitive, widely spaced chords, while May fastens on to edgy, often drum’n’bass-derived rhythms. It’s not about instrumental virtuosity, and in a sense nothing much happens, but the music is all of a piece and sounds completely contemporary. There’s more than a touch of Keith Jarrett’s limpid lyricism about the piano-playing, but because the accompanying rhythms look to the present rather than the past, the music works on its own terms. That such a sweet-sounding record has come out on the Russian émigré Leo Feigin’s often confrontational avant-garde label makes it an especially pleasant surprise. Phil Johnson