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Chasing Rainbows

Artist: Babelfish

Date of Release: 27/04/2015

Catalogue no: Moletone006

Label: Moletone

Price: £10

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Appearances by

Brigitte Beraha, Chris Laurence, Paul Clarvis

Chasing Rainbows, the second album from Babelfish, has all of the understated musical virtues which were appreciated in the group's first album in 2012. Here again, the listener will find proof that musical strength has nothing whatsoever to do with high volume. It is very well known in UK jazz circles quite what a technically accomplished vocalist Brigitte Beraha, and she proves that again here. But what has also happened is a deepening of the emotional content. It is not just subtle musical half-lights which are caught on the wing and are there to be enjoyed, every song here is alive with flickering emotions, impulses and questions. (Sebastian Scotney, March 2015)

A collaboration between two of the UK's finest jazz artists Barry Green (piano) and Brigitte Beraha (voice), the band also features legends Chris Laurence (double bass) and Paul Clarvis (percussion). Between them they have played and recorded with Kenny Wheeler, John Surman, Sarah Vaughan, Norma Winstone, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, Lee Konitz and many more. Their debut album Babelfish received rave reviews and was picked by Sebastian Scotney, founder of LondonJazz, as his top album of 2012. Their second album " Chasing Rainbows" is out in April, a new collection of music they love,regardless of where it comes from - Songs in English, French, Portuguese and Italian, from original songs about love to fast paced compositions about sushi; from free Jazz to their take on Contemporary classical songs, each Babelfish performance is fearless, fresh and mesmerising.

"These gracious and wonderfully talented musicians delivered an exciting and unusual combination of music... The visible joy of this band working together on stage was transferred to the audience." LondonJazz

"Babelfish are a definition of a contemporary jazz class act." John Fordham, The Guardian

 

Reviews

 

18/05/2015 Ian Mann

A very classy, highly intelligent piece of work that both consolidates and expands upon the success of the quartet's eponymous début.
“Chasing Rainbows” is the second album from the London based quartet Babelfish. The group developed from the duo of vocalist Brigitte Beraha and pianist Barry Green and now includes the vastly experienced musicians Chris Laurence (double bass) and Paul Clarvis (percussion).

This line up’s eponymous début was released in 2012 on Green’s Moletone label and attracted considerable critical acclaim for its blend of jazz and classical structures and for its intelligent lyrical content, informed by Beraha’s love of literature and poetry.

Again released on the Moletone imprint “Chasing Rainbows” places a greater emphasis on the group’s original material and it also exhibits a stronger improvisatory focus. An interesting collection of songs, sourced from within the group and beyond, is punctuated by individual variations on the theme of Green’s composition “Confusion”.

The programme commences with Beraha’s song “You, Me & The Rest Of The World”, an unusually intelligent, literate and insightful meditation on the theme of romantic love. Beraha is hugely gifted singer with a high degree of technical ability. She is also a highly accomplished lyricist who has said of her writing “when singing words I try to keep them simple, and yet not necessarily obvious in their meaning, and to do more with emotions and senses rather than the words themselves”. With regard to both her singing and her writing styles one is reminded of the influence of the great Norma Winstone, an observation that should be taken as a recommendation rather than a criticism.

Beraha has an exotic personal history; born in Milan to Turkish/British parents she was raised in Monaco before moving to London to study at the Guildhall School of Music and subsequently establishing a career as a professional vocalist in the UK. She is able to sing convincingly in several different languages, an ability that I like to think helped to provide this group with its name - that and an obvious love for the wonderful writings of the late Douglas Adams. Caetano Veloso’s beautiful song “Michaelangelo Antonioni” features Beraha’s emotive and evocative Italian vocalising, a delightfully flowing piano solo from Green and subtle, highly interactive support from Laurence and Clarvis.

“Your Turn To Ask” adds Beraha’s lyrics to a melody derived from a Steve Lacy saxophone solo that was in turn inspired by the Thelonious Monk composition “Ask Me Now”. In some ways it’s one of the album’s most orthodox “jazz” tracks with Green’s vaguely Monkish piano at the heart of the arrangement. But it’s also one of the most adventurous pieces as Beraha bands and stretches her vocal lines with an impressive flexibility.

“Barry’s Confusion”, a short solo piano piece is the first of the individual variations upon the theme of Green’s piece “Confusion”, the ensemble version of which closes the album. Green’s sketch is chunky and riffy and seems to offer further allusions to the style of Thelonious Monk.

Started by Laurence’s bass riff cum melody accompanied by the gentle sound of Clarvis’ shakers Beraha’s tune “Sushi Hero” marks a departure from the album’s predominate theme of love and relationships. Here she sings wordlessly, often soaring, in a joyous display that goes beyond mere scatting. Laurence’s sturdy but flexible bass lines are a significant presence throughout and Green also features strongly with a solo that veers between the quirky and the lyrical.

“Chris’ Confusion” is a short solo bass episode that features the buzzy, percussive bowing of Mr. Laurence on a piece that is actually something of a technical tour de force as well as being great fun to listen to.

Beraha’s song “Nuit Blanche” demonstrates her capacity to sing hauntingly and effectively in French on a piece that draws on musical styles ranging from chanson to jazz to Latin.

“Paul’s Confusion” is a very brief, mainly brushed, solo drum performance from Clarvis that actually features him picking out Geen’s melody on his kit.

The next piece is a fascinating segue as the group merge Aaron Copland’s “Heart, We Will Forget Him” with the jazz standard “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”. Effectively this is the title track and the segue represents an impressive artistic statement from Beraha and Green who duet effectively on Copland’s setting of the poem by Emily Dickinson. They then glide seamlessly into “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” which features Joseph McCarthy’s wistful but bleak lyrics set to a tune attributed to Harry Carroll but liberally borrowed from Chopin’s “Fantaisie Impromptu”. Clarvis and Laurence join in in along the way but essentially this performance is all about Beraha and Green. The pianist is a superb accompanist and has a particular affinity for working with singers. The Swedish born, London based vocalist Emilia Martensson is another who has benefited from Green’s always tasteful and sympathetic support.

Brigitte’s Confusion” is the last of the individual pieces and her wordless performance which includes extended vocal techniques, such as ticks, stutters and moans sounds genuinely confused as she searches for, and eventually finds, Green’s snatch of melody.

“Salley Gardens” is a Beraha arrangement of Benjamin Britten’s setting of W.B. Yeats’ poem which takes the folkish melody and uses it as the vehicle for a lengthy vocal led jazz improvisation while simultaneously retaining the spirit of both Britten’s music and Yeats’ words.

Beraha’s “A Story Ends” is an achingly melancholy lament for lost love featuring Green’s limpidly spacious piano and her own wordless vocals, a kind of sung sigh of resignation and regret.

Green’s piece “Knocked Knees” is a rather more joyful example of the piano/wordless vocal combination with the gentle patter of Clarvis’ percussion adding to the charmingly whimsical atmosphere.

Also by Green “Stubble Rash” represents a kind of companion piece to the above, essentially another “instrumental with voice”. Despite the similarly jokey title it’s less playful than its immediate predecessor but is no less enjoyable as Beraha’s voice swoops and soars, impeccably supported by the other members of the group.

Beraha’s “Unspoken” is the final chapter in a collection of songs that relate to “the cycles and stages of relationships, just love in many different forms”. The lyrics even incorporate the phrase “the cycle of life” while the instrumental honours go to Laurence with an extended pizzicato bass solo.
A musician with a foot in both the jazz and classical camps Laurence is a natural fit for this group and although his soloing opportunities are limited he is a key figure throughout the album. Similarly Clarvis whose understated but always appropriate percussion is a galvanising presence throughout with its attention to detail and nuance.

The album actually closes with the group take on the playful riffery of “Confusion” thus ending the album on an upbeat -if confused- note!

“Chasing Rainbows” both consolidates and expands upon the success of the quartet’s eponymous début. There’s a complete, almost conceptual feel about the album with the individual “Confusions” serving as punctuation rather than interruption. Inevitably its Beraha’s Winstone like voice that garners the most attention but in a way that’s a tribute to the superb accompanying/supporting skills of her three excellent colleagues.

The album was recorded by Simon Hanhart at drummer Ralph Salmins’ Bunker Studio in Welwyn and the precision of the mix brings out the best in everybody and is a key factor in the success of the album.

“Chasing Rainbows” is a very classy, highly intelligent piece of work. It is therefore perhaps appropriate that it is one of the many recent British album releases to be dedicated to the memory of the great Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014) http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/babelfish-chasing-rainbows/

 

10/05/2015 Dave Gelly, The Observer

Named after Douglas Adams’s fictional translating fish, this remarkable quartet has evolved its own musical language. Jazz and classical techniques are interwoven, not to mention a slight touch of folk. Unfamiliar at first, but gently seductive, it keeps you listening through the sheer power of invention, which isn’t surprising when you consider the eminence of those involved: pianist Barry Green, bassist Chris Laurence, percussionist Paul Clarvis and the quietly luminous voice of Brigitte Beraha. Co-composer, with Green, of most of these 16 pieces, Beraha employs both lyrics and a kind of ethereal scat-singing to quite hypnotic effect. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/may/10/babelfish-chasing-rainbows-review-dave-gelly

 

03/05/2015 Bruce Adams, All About Jazz

Lightness. Lightness of touch, of voice, of mood. That's the defining characteristic of Chasing Rainbows, the second album by UK quartet Babelfish.

The line-up is the same as that on debut album Babelfish (Moletone Records, 2012). Vocalist Brigitte Beraha and pianist Barry Green are the band's writers. Bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Paul Clarvis go well beyond the standard rhythm section role, bringing their own distinctive instrumental voices to the tunes.

Beraha must be one of the UK's most intriguing and imaginative vocalists. She has impressive technique and range, a command of vocalese and seemingly endless ideas about phrasing. Above all, her light, almost ethereal, quality stands out whether she's joyous ("You, Me And The Rest Of The World") or melancholy ("Heart, We Will Forget Him).

Many of these songs are wordless, Beraha transmitting emotions, moods, with no need for a lyric—given that the band shares its name with a small aquatic creature which, when placed in the ear, will translate all known languages in the universe, such a talent seems perfectly appropriate. On "Sushi Hero" she soars and swoops joyously, often doubled by Green's piano—the mood is infectious, transferred from Clarvis and Laurence's bouncy rhythm. The interplay between Green's spacious piano and Beraha's featherlight vocal tells a much sadder tale on "A Story Ends."

The choice of cover versions is unusual—Beraha and Green's duet on Aaron Copeland's "Heart, We Will Forget Him" segues into "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" and there's also a sweetly bucolic take on Benjamin Britten's musical setting of William Butler Yeats' poem "Salley Gardens."

Green provides five confusions, one for each musician plus an ensemble confusion to end the set. They're brief, fun, pieces based around a five note phrase, treated light-heartedly. He's relatively kind to Clarvis—"Paul's Confusion" only lasts for 25 seconds as his brushes skip and skitter across the drums—but "Chris' Confusion" gives the bassist a full 129 seconds of angst, channelled into a dynamic, spiky, arco solo that ends with a triumphant bass growl. Beraha overcomes her own apparent uncertainties with just a few seconds remaining of "Brigitte's Confusion," a quiet "That's it" signalling her success—if anyone ever wants to make a musical version of Samuel Beckett's "Not I" Beraha's performance here makes her a shoe-in for the lead.

The press release that accompanied this copy of Chasing Rainbows included a brief, hand-written, note—"Be Charmed!" Instruction or prediction? If it was an instruction, there was no need. If it was a prediction—bang on the money.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/chasing-rainbows-babelfish-moletone-records-review-by-bruce-lindsay.php

 

09/04/2015 Lance, Bebop Spoken Here

Brigitte Beraha, it would appear, has been round the block a few times - her CV includes commendations from Dame Cleo and the late Sir John, two folk who know/knew a thing or two. John Fordham also gave her the thumbs up 2/3 yearsback. Our dear friend Sebastian Scotney tells me of the high regard Babelfish is held in UK jazz circles and it far beholds me to disagree.
How could I? This is quite a momentous recording!
Beraha has an amazing range that she uses creatively rather than for mere effect although effective it certainly is. The blurb makes comparisions with Norma Winstone and this singer is up there in that league.
And what a choice of material - not a Gasser among them - instead we have originals by the lady herself and pianist Green - Steve Lacy, Aaron Copland, Fred Chopin, Yeats and Benjie Britton are also in there.
Birgette's Confusion is indeed that! Your Turn to Ask is Lacy's take on Monk's Ask Me Now. You want WOW! - you got it!
My apologies if I've given the impression that this is a one woman show - BB does dominate but Barry Green's piano should not be overlooked. Barry, from, I think, Teesside, is an ace accompanist and most times when I've been to the Spice of Life in Soho Barry has been the power behind the performers. He also provided solid support for Sarah Ellen Hughes when Sarah was treading the jazz boards (How are you doing these days Sarah?)
Laurence and Clavis do there bit.
Quite a voice! Quite a band!
Superb!
Lance.

 

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