What a proud and exciting moment! This beautiful album is the first to be recorded here at ThePlayroom, Arundel using the recently acquired Yamaha Grand Piano (more about that on our previous blog entry here).
The Full Circle Quartet is made up of award winneing musicians and writers and are based in Sussex. They came to The Playroom, Arundel for 3 days in late 2022.
Once settled in, microphones in place, headphone levels set and tea made, the Quartet had a very relaxed and enjoyable few days recording tunes they had previously played live, expanding ideas and tweaking arrangements as they went. (The engineer enjoyed it very much too!!).
All of the members of Full Circle write and arrange, so 12 of the 13 tracks on the album are written and arranged within the band. One track, ‘One January Morning’, was written by friend of the band, multi-reed player Julian Nicholas and was arranged by members of the Quartet.
The album is called ‘The South Downs Suite’ and the music is inspired by and reflects living and working in the South Downs of England.
You will hear magnificent playing from all involved with ensemble cameos from Kate Hogg (Flutes) and Michelle Andrews (Clarinet and Bass Clarinet).
‘The South Downs Suite’ album is definitely worth a listen if you are a lover of Jazz and Soundtrack-style music. Pure escapism.
The album cover art is detail from a mixed painting named ‘Amberley’ by local artist Polly Dutton, who is working with the Quartet on a companion set of artwork which will be launched at Petworth Festival 2023. More information on this through Polly’s site: www.pollydutton.co.uk.
The Quartet will also be playing at the festival and various other venues through the South, details of which can be found though their website.
The South Downs Suite by The Full Circle Quartet – Recorded, mixed and mastered at The Playroom, Arundel.
Further information about TheFull Circle Quartet including live dates and album details can be found here: www.fullcirclequartet.com
Reviews – What ‘they’ say
Some pre-release comments that the album has received (via Bandcamp):-
Bought it almost blind because I love Jo’s sound and inventiveness in her playing. However, I now have listened to this whole album. Wow ! what an album. Pianist, Bassist and Drummer are all top draw. A very classy album indeed. Thoroughly recommended for any jazz enthusiast. Go and buy it . You will not be disappointed. On this basis, I would gladly book the band for my Jazz club.
This is a superb piece, it flows in a wonderful way. Great playing and recording. Just sit back and enjoy.
SimplyJazzTalk.blog: “With a career spanning twenty years so far, Lewis Harding is a professional musician performing and writing in a wide array of styles, from jazz to EDM (Electronic Dance Music), rock to reggae. Palm Thievery is the debut jazz album release from Lewis and was recorded and mixed at The Playroom in Arundel, West Sussex.
The opening track, ‘George’s Salamander’, has a great big band sound about it with horns and vibraphone introducing the number before the sax takes over which, in turn, hands over to the guitar of Lewis Harding. There is a softer toned middle section that is a nice contrast to the opening. Martijin Van Galen gets to play a short solo before the band start subtly winding up the energy to bring the track to a close. ‘Above’ is a simple sounding ballad with Kate Hogg leading on tenor sax. Lewis Harding plays a beautiful sounding solo on guitar with nicely pitched accompaniment from Tom Phelan at the piano before taking his own solo. This is a delightfully lyrical piece of writing and the musicians involved play with finesse and elegance.
‘Octopods’ is a horn led mid-tempo number with more great sounding trumpet from Martijin Van Galen. Lewis Harding again adds some fine guitar work before the horn section gives a brief interlude leading to a wonderful sonorous baritone sax solo from Julian Nicholas. The horn section returns with more great lines to finish out the tune: a fabulous horn section number. ‘Hue 6’ is another stylish ballad with a delightful melody played out on the piano, there is a beautifully played sax into guitar section with piano accompaniment that is so well balanced that it would be churlish not to be impressed.
The title track, ‘Palm Thievery’ begins with an introduction that draws the listener into a false idea as to how the tune is going to shape up. Once the main theme kicks in the feel of the number changes to something with a party vibe, great guitar lines, a strong pulsing rhythm from drummer Dave Cottrell with horns moving in and out of the tune between well delivered solo spots. ‘Clues in Bhutan’ takes the tempo down again and presents a meandering sort of tune with subtle changes in tonal colour and texture. There is more to this number than first meets the ears: it is as emotive as it is relaxing. It has a wonderful melody that is unhurried, with a soft arch contour that emphasises the quality of the writing.
The final track on Palm Thievery is also the longest on the album – coming in at a little over nine minutes. The opening has a reflective quality about it that builds slowly with the delicate muted trumpet of Van Galen catching the attention of the listener as it fades in and then out again to allow for Harding’s guitar to take the lead. There is a delightful extended sax solo but what makes it so interesting is what is happening beneath the solo: the piano, vibes, drumming all adding their own layer of sound on which the sax can weave its melodic line before everything fades out to nothing.
Lewis Harding does not describe himself as a jazz musician but with the release of Palm Thievery I think he may have to reconsider his musical label. This is a well-balanced album in terms of structure, with some quite remarkable writing and a group of musicians who evidently understand how to put across Lewis’ compositions. This is a very good nine-piece outfit who know how to play refined, stylish contemporary jazz written by someone with a real feel for the art form.
Peter Peregrine is the second album of original compositions that Terry Pack has recorded at The Playroom, Arundel and as we have come to expect it is a big one!
It is well-known that Terry writes, arranges and orchestrates for large bands such as his ‘Trees Ensemble’ project and Peter Peregrine, though not a Trees recording, is no exception.
Rather than being a collection of individual tunes, this album takes the form of an instrumental story. The music tells of Peter Peregrine, an Anglo-Saxon peasant, whose life is changed forever when he is enlisted as his Norman master’s squire. He is marched across Medieval Europe to take part in the Third Crusade of King Richard ‘the Lionheart’ to wrest Jerusalem from the forces of Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt.
Recording took place at The Playroom, Arundel during 2020 and 2021, in-between national lockdowns due to Covid-19. Basic parts were put in place by Terry using Sibelius and Logic Pro midi instruments that were ultimately replaced with live players.
Tom Phelan came in during the early days and helped give the album its sound, playing keyboards – Dolceola and Accordion. The album is littered with older traditional sounding instruments, the Dolceola (an early 20th Century zither-like instrument with a piano keyboard), Lute and Bansuri (a traditional wooden flute played brilliantly by Kate Hogg) being a few of them.
Now that the recording of the album was underway, and there was a brief opening up of the country from restrictions, Terry called on old stalwarts from The Enid (a band he had played in with international success in the late 1970’s), The Cloggz and other musician friends to come to the studio individually or in pairs (socially-distanced in the booth and live room) to add to the recording.
From The Enid, Tony Freer (Oboe/CorAnglais) added melodic lines and motifs throughout. Nick Magnus wrote some beautiful keyboard parts, including strings and sound effects (The Chair Monster is a firm favourite!) which were added before Francis Lickerish and Jonathan Beedle (from Francis’ band Secret Green) spent a day recording electric and acoustic guitars and Lute. And, from Three Friends came Terry’s good friend, local guitarist Andy Williams playing acoustic and electric parts in his fabulous jazz/blues style.
Also from Secret Green came Fran Freer playing the Cello parts magnificently (and some Viola parts on Cello). The sound of the album was coming together nicely.
Drums and percussion play a huge part on this recording. Some of the tracks are very dark and full and needed a lot of rhythmic support to portray the gravitas of Peter Peregrine’s exploits. Dave Storey, from The Enid, came to the studio for a couple of days to record Drum-Kit bringing with him his classic ’80’s 6-piece Yamaha 9000 Recording Custom kit (green)… looked big… sounded big! The couple of days with Dave really changed the vibe of the recording by putting a lot more body and drive into the tracks. The temporary drum-sampler parts could now be deleted which, though useful in building the track, were linear and uninspiring.
Next up… percussion. Nick Magnus had created some marvellous percussion loops using samples at his studio. These added great feel to tracks such as Harbinger and Eclipse. We wanted to record these sampler-loops live so that we could mix the individual percussion instruments to suit the different sections of the album. After an hour or two listening to the pre-recorded percussion loops with percussionist Richard Horne (R.P.O., Raymond Gubby Orchestra, Evanescence and Hugh Jackman) we had worked out most of the individual percussion instruments and patterns required to make the recording. We arranged for a couple of days recording where Richard would bring a van load of gear to studio and we would piece it all together.
The magnificent orchestral bass drum Richard used is 36” in diameter with calf heads and has, for the techies, a significant low frequency range centred around 30hz. Fantastic!! … we have now rehung the pictures on walls of the studio and all the glass survived! You’ll hear this throughout the album but particularly in Brindisi and Harbinger.
The Timpani were also a challenge. The larger drums were too big to fit through the existing doors to the live room (new wider doors have been fitted since!) so the 4 timpani were set up in the Control room. We don’t recommend this! Even quiet, they are LOUD!
But, Richard played them brilliantly and no damage was done to anyone’s hearing… though we did immediately adjourn to the local pub after the final hit, to get over it – ears were definitely not going to be reliable after that onslaught. (Any excuse!)
Simon Webster came in for a day to play traditional Darbouka and Djembe on some of the tracks too. There is a full percussion list in the album booklet – it was hard work but we are pleased to be able to say that there are no sampled percussion or drum sounds remaining on the final recording and it shows by the natural development and tone changes throughout.
So to the blowers. With all the heavy duty rhythm work going on below, the album needed some powerful top-line playing. Trumpets (Chris Coull, Martijn Van Galen and Nick Trish), Trombones (Mike Hext and Ellen Campbell) and Woodwind (Beccy Perez-Rork, Kate Hogg, Charlotte Glasson and Andy Pickett) were added at various times during the period of recording and provided this.
On top of the sound some additional remote recorded violin parts from Richard Jones and Charlotte Glasson helped give the sampled orchestral string sounds a live feel.
Mixing was a challenge as Peter Peregrine was more like one complete piece of music divided into 11 sections rather than individual tracks or ‘songs’. Keeping the overall picture in mind was key, like a soundtrack from a movie. Mike Saunders was at the helm, some of the tracks had 40 or 50 channels so sub-grouping made life a lot easier.
Keeping the low-end tidy was a particular focus. In addition to the bass drum, the rich string sounds, keyboards and the drum kit, Terry had played up to 5 double bass parts on some tracks so there were a lot of opportunities to end up with an undefined woolly mush.
It’s always easier mixing excellent musicians, which we definitely had on this recording, so that made the job a lot simpler than it may have been. Final mixing and mastering was completed late in 2021 at The Playroom, Arundel.
To complete the project, the fantastic original paintings by Jo Luckman (www.islandretreatswithjo.co.uk) and the full length story of Peter Peregrine, written by Terry Pack, were collated and put together in a 32-page booklet for the CD packaging and the album was complete.
This was another huge project for The Playroom, Arundel, and we are very pleased to have been involved. Definitely a huge achievement for all involved.
The album is available to buy (CD Digipack with 32-page booklet) and download from Bandcamp: