Title - 'Surrounded by Sea [ECM]
Artist - Andy Sheppard Quartet
Extending the range of his widely-praised Trio Libero project with Michel Benita and Seb Rochford, Andy Sheppard adds Eivind Aarset (who made significant contributions to 2008’s Movements In Colour) to the band. With Aarset’s ambient drones and electronic textures as a backdrop, Sheppard and Co. seem to have even more space to explore here on the extraordinary Surrounded by Sea.
Andy Sheppard has one of the most sublime saxophone sounds in the world, and whether he favors his tenor - where the low notes are like rounded depth charges - or his soprano work - where the tones are achingly pure, played to heartbreaking effect - at all times his play is mesmerizing.
Recorded on August 30th-September 1st, 2014, Surrounded by Sea embraces new compositions, open improvisations, an Elvis Costello tune, and the Gaelic traditional ballad 'Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir,' which appears in three variations. Ergo, it becomes a thematic thread through the album.
Inclusive, Sheppard revisits older material on the hypnotic 'Medication,' previously interpreted with the Bergen Big Band; Aarset shadows Sheppard's defining melody closely before the saxophonist peels away over Rochford's light, yet propulsive groove. On 'Looking for Ornette,' Sheppard is drawn once more to explore the nuances of his Ornette Coleman-inspired piece that appeared on Dancing Man and Woman (2000), closing this album in quietly celebratory mode.