Sarah Bennett

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Reviews of Sarah Bennett


20/01/2007 All About Jazz

The Astronomer’s Guest by the Sarah Bennett quintet is a magical mix of ethereal beauty and kooky eccentricity. Transporting the listener on an enchanting journey, each track is both original and thematically linked. The mysticism of outer space acts as a perfect canvas to paint romantic, haunting soundscapes and the album is a joyful maze of intricate vocals and conceptual depth. Sarah Bennett’s voice is elegant, evocative and above all unique. A breathy sensuous soprano with impeccable intonation, she glides effortlessly across difficult intervals, giving shape and colour to the musical landscape. The title track Astronomer’s Guest, for example, is rich in terms of vocal character and Bennett communicates a powerful sense of theatre. The strength of the album lies in the symbiotic partnership between Chris and Sarah and it comes as no surprise to discover that they are husband and wife. This relationship is pivotal to the success of the quintet, as songwriter Chris has produced an exquisite showcase for Sarah’s voice. The Celestial Toymaker uses the voice as an instrument and is almost Baroque like in terms of quality. It is this understated sense of ensemble and the merging of classical and jazz influences that is a repeating motif throughout the entire album. The Astronomers Guest is the first original album by this intriguing quintet. Music listeners who are seeking imaginative, sensual beauty should immerse themselves in the textures and colours of this remarkable, resonant piece of work.


30/11/2006 Jazzwise - Dec 2006/Jan 2007 issue

The Astronomer's Guest reviewed by Peter Quinn

To say that this is one of the more unusual offerings to come my way this year would be a gross understatement. Comprising eight original pieces by pianist Chris Bennett, The Astronomer's Guest isn't so much leftfield as outer-spacious. Drawing from a voluminous stylistic well, with influences ranging from folk, pop and classical music as well as jazz, the music could perhaps best be described as an unlikely mash-up of contemporary British influences; the hallucinatory lyrical content of early Pink Floyd meets the trenchant individuality of Kate Bush, filtered through the musical sensibilities of Norma Winstone. Its deeply quirky and, at times, wonderful. The albums astronomical theme is announced at the outset as The Girl in the Moon drifts into your consciousness on a static synth bed. The Celestial Toymaker mines its very own version of English minimalism, while Nightscape features a wordless vocal floating ethereally over a chorale-like backdrop, conveying something of the longing and melancholia of an Ennio Morricone soundtrack. The funky Latin stylings of Nocturnes Kite provide a welcome foil to the otherwise glacial pace. Based on a repeating two-chord motif that rocks back and forth hypnotically, Comet provides the suitably other-wordly conclusion and hints at a quite different source of inspiration classical Indian vocal music. You almost expect singer Shoba Gurtu to pitch in for a verse or two now that would have been a coup de grace.

Peter Quinn


16/09/2006 Norma Winstone

The Astronomer's Guest (comments via email)

Yes I did receive the CD, but have only just managed to listen to it all. I think that it's very imaginative work. I think that you do extremely well with some of the difficult melodic lines (e.g. Nocturne's Kite). In fact that might be the only downside for me, as I find it difficult to remember many of the melodies. It's just an observation as I love strong melodies, even though I have of course sung quite "angular" things myself in the past, and have always loved a challenge, as you obviously do! I really like the way you handle the wordless songs.... very nice sound. Anyway congratulations to you both; it's good to hear that someone is trying to do something a bit different with words and music.
I find your work both interesting and imaginative, and I like the way you integrate your voice into the music.

All the best,


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