F-ire Collective musicians have started turning up all over the mainstream polls (notably the BBC Jazz Awards in 2004 and 2005) and the input of the gifted drummer/composer and F-ire stalwart Seb Rochford has been at the heart of recent UK jazz success stories like Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear – and this unique creation from guitarist Jonny Phillips. Like many F-ire artists, Phillips favours Latin rhythms, the close integration of music and dance, and the evolution of new sounds through a world-music view sharpened by jazz spontaneity.
Song for the Sleeping features few jazz solos in the usual sense, and is like a soundtrack for an imaginary movie. Guitarist Phillips hardly ever steps out of an ensemble role (though there are telling contributions from that fine improvising cellist Ben Davis, tenor saxist Rob Leak and keyboardist Nick Ramm among others) and the material draws on South American, African, romantic-classical and post-Coltrane jazz music, with a little Eric Satie on the side. The opening Lament is a gentle splicing of Venezuelan rhythms and haunting Vaughan Williams harmonies, with Rob Leak’s tenor sax weaving through them, Meme is a soft tango subtly coloured by a bass clarinet, and Larks has a Celtic folk feel that’s progressively invaded by Seb Rochford’s implacable hip-hop groove.
Singer Julia Biel’s wordless vocals and Nick Ramm’s sparing keyboard figures shape the Brazilian-driven Remedius, Biel resembles a female Robert Wyatt on her own lyrics (coupled with cellist Davis’s inventiveness) on Deep Snow, and West African music, tango and a lullaby complete the set. A typically open and collective-minded F-ire enterprise, but Jonny Phillips is a big new composing presence if this calmly eloquent music is anything to go by.