review

Short stories - Fabled: CD

This review was published on: February 27th 2019
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Fabled is a quintet led by saxophonist, clarinettist and composer Sam Rapley. This CD follows the earlier success of an EP eponymously entitled Fabled. I found Short Stories to be one of the most interesting and engaging musical episodes I have ever come across – possibly because I don’t get about that much, but more likely because of its originality.

Short on melodic themes (with the exception of a superb final track ‘For Richer, For Poorer’) it’s strong on repetitive motifs. It’s also a tad short on harmonic content, but given the combo involved (alto sax doubling clarinet, electric guitar, piano, bass and drums) that’s not a problem. Sam is not a single-reed player given to ‘back-of-the stalls’ acoustic stimulation, so glorious sonorities do not abound. But compositional structures and varieties of tempi together with use of the percussion as an additional improvising member occur in profusion. Indeed, it’s impossible to predict what any track will contain before one gets to it. I will go further: while each track clearly has a pre-written structure, each time a track is performed the improvised elements should make it a unique – especially so where concurrent improvisation is in play.

So, Short Stories is, for me, a captivating example of jazz-flavoured modern chamber music – which will be full of novel interest every time it is performed live. The published CD lasts 55 minutes and carries eight tracks. Most employ Sam on alto but two call on the clarinet (‘25 Years of Rain’ and ‘First Love, Last Rites’) – and one track, The Picture House, carries a violin-like instrument. There is plenty of solo work from every member with perhaps the most jazz-oriented lines coming from Sam’s alto on ‘Old Owls’ and ‘First Love, Last Rites’ – both with just a slight hint of John Coltrane in them. I’m sure that every track will generate some sort of imagery for listeners.

The standard of musicianship from all concerned is high, the recording quality is excellent and the variety of content holds one’s interest to the last bar. Sam’s companions are Matt Robinson (piano), Alex Musk (guitar), Connor Chaplin (double bass) and Will Glasser (drums). The press release that accompanied the review material mentions that Sam and his group are influenced by literature, jazz, classical musicians, world music, modern composition and indie-folk. Whatever – the result is a set of short musical stories exceptionally well told.

Kenneth Morris

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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at 48 Henniker Point, Leytonstone Road, London, E15 1LQ. Email: finance (@) cassgb.org. Tel: 01642 769 558

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