Rafael Karlen presents Equally True, a captivating album with his new all-star quintet featuring vocalist Kristin Berardi, pianist Matt McMahon, bassist Brett Hirst and drummer Simon Barker. The lyrical compositions and beautiful interplay on Equally True draws similarities with standout ECM albums from Kenny Wheeler, and Tord Gustavsen. The album showcases the distinctive personalities and sensitive playing of this exceptional ensemble.
“When I was preparing for Equally True,” Karlen recalls, “my goal was to have clear, distilled compositions as vehicles and departure points for the players to engage with. I wanted to have pieces that were descriptive enough to capture a specific environment and mood but open enough for these amazing players to bring themselves into the music.”
The 10 original compositions elegantly traverse a compelling range of moods and themes. Alongside a Suite of four pieces which were originally commissioned for the Brisbane International Jazz Festival, the music was written while Rafael was 2018 Composer-in-Residence in the prestigious Peggy Glanville-Hicks House. The Arrivals and Prospects Suite, the only pieces to include lyrics, is an extended work exploring charged landscapes of nostalgia and lingering reflection, through to anticipation and excitement of future destinations.
“Kristin Berardi and I have worked alongside each other for many years in several different projects so we comfortably play and phrase very naturally together” says Karlen. “I have always been a fan of Matt, Brett and Simon’s playing and wanted to work with them for a long time. They all create a beautiful space and openness in their playing, and that was a key element of this project. Most pieces were from the first or sometimes the second take as these captured the clearest spark, warmth, and excitement from these wonderful musicians.”
About the Music
1: Again, as Always was written to convey openness and warm familiarity and to capture the beautiful space that these musicians are capable of producing.
2: The title Equally True refers to the complicated nature of our different views and how to reconcile these views in ways which aren’t mutually exclusive. This title also plays on the multiple ways in which one bar can equally imply a three, four and six feel.
3: Foucault’s Pendulum: I liked the thought of how setting up a Pendulum can show the earth’s rotation. It somehow makes something small a signifier for massive planetary rotation and suddenly gives it new meaning. The developing piano figure is complemented by a through-composed unison line for voice and saxophone.
4: Arrivals and Prospects Suite: Blueprint of Possibilities: One of four movements to include lyrics, this movement explores the way that we can look forward with excitement and anticipation.
5: Arrivals and Prospects Suite: Evening Corridors: Looking back and reflecting can be a beautiful thing but sometimes we can slide into closed loops of rumination and become stagnant and bitter. This is the darkest piece on the album and unravels these themes over a rubato and textural feel throughout.
6: Arrivals and Prospects Suite: The Promise of Postcards was written to express the anxieties surrounding the uncertainty of future events.
7: Arrivals and Prospects Suite: My Own Quiet Library expresses reflection on memories with kind/gentle nostalgia and the building up a personal memory archive from which to draw.
8: Seven Seconds After Sleep was titled for the expansive space we find ourselves in just after falling asleep
9: Rich Hours: With the exception of the Suite, all these compositions were written while I was the Composer-in-Residence in the Peggy Glanville-Hicks House in Sydney. This piece is titled for the fertile hours and productive output of my time living in that beautiful house.
10: Before the Day: I have been enjoying trying to explore and distil very specific moods and themes in my music. It feels like we can, as performers, uncover and delve deeply into the many corners of each concept.