“The unexpected, emotional swirl of pianist and composer Maria Chiara Argirò’s debut release The Fall Dance has me in raptures as its engaging, visceral expressions of explosive excitement and sweet serenity unfold.
Born in Rome and now residing in London, Argirò’s original sextet music is sensitively crafted, yet frequently erupts with intense fervour – and she has a fascinating weave of timbres to work with, her often percussive piano style combining with Sam Rapley (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), Tal Janes (guitar), Andrea Di Biase (double bass) and Gaspar Sena (drums), along with the extraordinary, unfettered vocalisations of Leïla Martial. This is contemporary jazz with a purpose and an edge which, though abundant in intelligent improvisation, almost defies categorisation (its elemental, surging rock would be entirely at home on radio’s alternative music strands).
Maria describes her varietal creativity which, in terms of writing, often arrives in the night: “I have to make sure I have a recording device at my side, otherwise I’d never get any sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, and… I have complete clarity in mind as to how I want the score to sound. It has become a daily habit to break down into little pieces the scores in my subconscious and to arrange them on paper, like a jigsaw puzzle of my melodic dreams.” These ‘little pieces’, however, are the basis of an entirely joined-up, detailed delivery full of unpredictable compositional turns and sublime instrumental interfusion.
A wispy, misterioso intro to Dream R suggests a glimpse of Argirò’s nocturnal light-bulb moments before crashing into a near-eight-minute hallucinatory episode where Leïla Martial’s elongated vocal lines hover in and out of pitch frequency with Sam Rapley’s clarinet; and whilst there’s a waltzing folkiness, Gaspar Sena’s thrashing energy also encourages screeching tenor improv and bawling vocals (Martial’s palette is incredibly broad). When the Sea balances piano jazz repose with impressive, restless spontaneity, such as Martial’s instinctive response to Rapley’s clarinet siren calls; Tal Janes’ guitar informs mischievously shuffling, bass-swung Every Now and Then (Martial’s syncopated, panting, cartoon voice strangely compelling); and miniature Song for the Silver Family’s soothing, awakening simplicity segues into the atmospheric, sustained grandeur of Freely, with Rapley’s rich tenor gliding over affecting chordal changes.
These lucid recollections of Argirò’s thoughts are as dramatic as they are quietly emotional – so Stanhope Gardens’ irascible alarm contrasts markedly with Chopinesque piano nocturne The Man Who Sees the World, whose descending romantic beauty is enhanced by lyrical bass clarinet melodies and Andrea Di Biase’s resonant, cantabile double bass. Title track The Fall Dance’s boiling, nightmarish vigour becomes accentuated by a tremulant, almost hysterical lament from Martial; and closing Zen Song breaks daylight with a melodic, sunrise vamp.
Brimming with imagination, and led by Argirò’s artistic drive, the ardency of this sextet cannot be overstated – and The Fall Dance is certainly an album with staying power.”