Saturday, 11 November 2017

Joanna MacGregor & Andy Sheppard - Deep River, album review

Both Sax Sides

I have returned to this album after seeing Andy Sheppard live a few days ago. Along with pianist Joanna MacGregor, these 2005 covers of gospel to contemporary songs are beautifully as well as  excitingly played, and my focus has been on Sheppard’s stylistic variations.

Opener Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child is of course an indelible tune and one therefore listens for the nuances in the cover. Sheppard here is in his breathy mode and this is then developed with loops and multi-tracking effects to merge traditional with modern, electronic whines and wails railing across the looped sax and the trilling runs of MacGregor on piano. Second, the gospel again of Everybody Help the Boys Come Home is entirely modern with samples of an original recording by William and Versey Smith, MacGregor on piano-percussive beats and Sheppard on sax runs, the two merging in and out of those beats. A favourite is third Spiritual, the Charlie Haden song made memorable for me by Johnny Cash’s emotive cover, and Sheppard matches this with an emotional crescendo in his playing.

It is a beautiful album throughout. A pairing I will finish on is the sweet and delicate delivery of fourth track Georgia Lee which reminds most of the tone and pace of Sheppard’s Bristol gig I reviewed here. This is juxtaposed dramatically two tracks on by Up Above My Head with an acoustic blues guitar opening and the multi-tracked soprano sax of Sheppard, MacGregor joining her piano runs to Sheppard’s increasingly wild-rolling play. Two tracks on from this, a remix of the same song features Seb Rochford who also played the Bristol gig.

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