Saturday, December 28, 2002


Album ‘Debut
Artist: Deirdre Cartwright
CD Discs: 1
Label: Blow the Fuse BTF9401CD

Having already reviewed Deirdre Cartwright’s 'Play' (1998) and the latest album, 'Precious Things' (summer 2002), I thought I’d complete the circle by looking at ‘Debut’, her first fully fully-fledged bandleader outing. For those who don’t know her, Cartwright is a guitar virtuoso whose musical inclinations are very diverse but whose moorings are clearly in jazz - as much a spirit as a music to her. She had a brief dalliance with fame in her role as teacher-presenter of TV's 'Rockschool'. But most of her time has been devoted to composing and performing with different ensemble formations: jazz trios and the larger, evolving Deirdre Cartwright Group heard here.

On 'Debut', which was released in 1994, Cartwright assembled a fascinating collection of musical talent. Josefina Cupido, from Brazil, has a wide-ranging voice and an eclectic interest in percussion. Her recordings include 'One Woman, One Drum' (SLCD40000) with Paul Clarvis, Garry Hunt and Chris Brisco. Louise Elliott (tenor sax and flute) came to Britain from Australia in 1985. She has played with African and Latin musicians in Grand Union Orchestra, as well as recording with bass master Jah Wobble and trombonist Annie Whitehead. Gary Hammond (bongos, congas, assorted percussion) has worked with Theo Travis and John Etheridge on 'Secret Island' (33 Jazz). Chris Baron (drums and marimba) is now involved with Mark Nightingale's five trombone project, 'Bone Structure'. Former Cambridge organ scholar Steve Lodder (piano and synth) has played with many leading lights of modern jazz, notably Andy Sheppard, George Russell and Carla Bley. Last but not least is Cartwright's long-term collaborator Alison Rayner (acoustic and fretless electric bass). Rayner is also a composer and teacher. She led 'The Jazz Garden' quartet from 1989 to 1992.

The album itself, far from being the busy affair you might expect from such a sizeable line-up, is light and airy. Indeed it is full of subtle, fun-loving textures and wistful asides. From the brooding intro on 'Spartia' right through to the playfulness of 'Trap', the grooving of 'Grand Loup', gentle funk in 'Walk With Me', and some midnight balladry on 'When Pushing Comes to Shoving' and 'Pisces Moon', this CD positively shimmers with ideas. What links it all together is Cartwright's fluid, flighty but somehow unhurried guitar sound. The melodies are delicious, the harmony tempting. It all leaves you wanting more, just as any good music should.

At a time when technique alone can't buy you music, Deirdre Cartwright is one composer and guitarist who puts just that extra bit of devotion into her sound to make it truly lingering.
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