Friday, April 19, 2013

Dave Walsh “Storyboard” album review and interview

Storyboard cover art

Drummer and Principal Lecturer at Leeds College of Music, Dave Walsh is not only a talented improviser (as can be evidenced from the music available on his website and an enthusiastic teacher of percussion skills and technique, but, from what is palpable from his latest release “Storyboard”, an exceptional arranger. The production is tight and crisp, and the mood throughout is buoyant and inspirational. Coming to the attention of Jazz Goes to Leeds after one of the coldest springs since records began, “Storyboard” is a glorious way to enter the summer months. “After Sweden” is fresh and intense, with delightfully restrained guitar from Stuart McCallum. One is almost reminded of “Letter from Home”/”Still Life (Talking)” period Pat Metheny in the mood that is created.  The title track “Storyboard” gently slows the tempo but not the joyous passion. Delicate, gossamer thin piano lines, enclosed within elusive ambience on “For a Short While” and “Wait, Don’t Walk” are both reflective and insightful; this is music to instil both melancholia and affection. “Because Of...”, and for the most part “Hold On”, have a childlike naivety that is at once disarming yet commanding. The listener is transported to a place of sorrow and elation within the same few bars. The titles of the arrangements themselves, such as “Peace of One”, are irresistibly evocative of the mood they create. Rising imposingly over ethereal keyboard textures, “Turning Circle” shifts pace into a Latin jazz and experimental flavoured piece, that helps add further textures to the recording. The album closes with “Autumn Song” which, again, has a devotional quality reminiscent of Alice Coltrane, Carlos Santana and Pharaoh Sanders at their most spiritual.
There is a real sense throughout “Storyboard” that the players are working collectively toward an almost sacred goal. The eleven piece band is comprised of a variety of electric and acoustic instrumentation which helps to give these arrangements an almost organic quality.  Although the compositions are arranged principally by the drummer, there is never a sense that egos have come in to play. The solos, rather than being seen as an opportunity for bravado and technicality, weave themselves into the arrangements with subtlety and respect. Some of the influences that have come to bear on the percussion on “Storyboard”, principally Peter Erskine and Jack DeJohnette, are manifest throughout, and go a long way to acknowledge how absorbed influences are passed from generation to generation.  There is a humble professionalism infusing these compositions that make for a blissful and rewarding listening experience.  As the title suggests, “Storyboard” can almost be read as a narrative, or soundtrack, to a time fondly remembered.

Mark had the chance to meet up with Dave Walsh, ( well known drummer who is also Head of Specialist Study for Jazz and a principal lecturer at Leeds College of Music, for a chat about his newly released album.

Mark Beirne-Smith - Is this a debut album in terms of being a leader?
Dave Walsh –Well its is a re-issue! There is a lot of material from my 2003 album ‘Melody before me’. The main problem I had with that recording was problem with the drum sound. I had an opportunity a couple of years ago to rerecord the drums and then fix a few other problem.

Mark Beirne-Smith - How would you describe the music in terms of Genre and influences?
Dave Walsh – I think it is cross genre, there is a classical influence because I studied classical harmony when I was at school. I am also in to Latin rhythms, particularly samba. Personal influences are Lyle Mays (pianist), Pat Metheny, especially the group stuff… Keith Jarrett, especially his improvised Solo Concerts. Outside of Jazz the singer songwriter James Taylor and Michael McDonald have also influenced my writing.

Mark Beirne-Smith - What is it that you want to say with this album?
Dave Walsh – For me Melody is really important, as I’m into melodic music. This is not an out and out ‘Drum’ album. There are a few elements and evidence of slightly drum heavy nits to the music, but overall I think the melodic and textural quality to the music is more obvious.

Mark Beirne-Smith - Which part of the writing process do you find most difficult?
Dave Walsh – All my writing is improvised on the piano and kept as is. I then store it on the computer and add texture, extra instruments, rhythm and percussion and that is what takes the time for me to get right.

Mark Beirne-Smith - There is a lot of textural sounds across the whole album, I especially noticed this in ‘For a short while’ , more so than in standard jazz music, is this intentional?
Dave Walsh – Yes, well the textural sounds are really important to create mood and feel, when the music is moving along its journey. When working on this album, the textual aspects were probably the longest part to record. It really helps the listener to engage.

Mark Beirne-Smith - Is there a new career as a jazz singer or pianist beckoning?
Dave Walsh – NO! I use to play piano years ago with a singer. Jazz standard etc. I wasn’t very good at it!

Mark Beirne-Smith - What are the advantages of being a drummer lead project?
Dave Walsh – I’m not sure it has any advantages but one thing I’ve noticed over the years (and I don’t included myself on this level) is that very highly respected drummer are often very strong writers. My theory on this is that I think musical drummer, drummers who listen and empathise with the music they are within, often love melody and texture and that comes through in their writing.

Mark Beirne-Smith - It is released just in electronic format, any reason for that?
Dave Walsh – Variety of reasons, I am not intending to gig the music as there is no band set up any more, so there isn’t a need for a physical product to sell at gigs. There is a lot of change in the music business especially with independent music, so I am just selling it on

Bandcamp link to "Storyboard"

Mark Beirne-Smith - Who are you gigging with?
Dave Walsh – In terms of jazz, Jamil Sheriff trio, Stuart McCallum’s Distilled project, The Jamie Taylor 4tet and Matt Andersons Wildflower project. In terms of other styles of music, I’m still involved with Singer/Songwriter Tom McRae. We recorded a new band album last year. Tom is currently touring his latest solo album ‘From The Lowlands’ so we’re hoping the band record is out next year. Tom wrote some stunning songs for that project. I’ve also been recording with a singer/songwriter from Manchester called JP Cooper. I’ve done is last 2 EP’s. He’s also well worth checking out.

Mark Beirne-Smith - Do you like marmalade?
Dave Walsh – No, No and No, wish I did but I don’t.

The following musicians are on this album

All Compositions - Dave Walsh.
Dave Walsh - Composition, Drums, Piano, Strings, Vox
Stuart McCallum - Electric Guitar
Simon Willescroft - Alto, Tenor, Soprano Sax
Lara James - Soprano Sax
Russ Van Den Berg - Soprano and Tenor Sax
Pete Hughes - Piano, Keys
Richard Hammond - Acoustic and Electric Bass
Lea Mullen - Percussion
Richard Wetherall - Piano
Ollie Collins - Vector Bass, Piccolo Bass, Fretless bass, Electric Bass.
Ulrich Elbracht - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar.

Dave Walsh is an Istanbul/Agop Endorsee and a D’Addario Artist.

I really enjoyed listen to this album, the textural elements really did set the melodies up. Even though it was not intended to be a straight ahead jazz album, there are some noticeable influences there. It is definitely worth £4 of anyone’s money.

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