Tori Freestone - tenor saxophone, soprano sax, flute
Alcyona Mick - piano
Brigitte Beraha - voice (tracks 1 and 8)
Recorded on 2nd October 2017 at Artesuono Studio, Udine, Italy
Mixed and mastered by Stefano Amerio
Produced by Tori Freestone and Alcyona Mick
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
Artwork - Sophie Moates
released March 23, 2018
ABOUT THE ALBUM
With the playful opening bars of new release Criss Cross, the sublime world of tenor saxophonist and flautist Tori Freestone and pianist Alcyona Mick (plus guest vocalist Brigitte Beraha) is encapsulated through creative intrigue and improvisational dexterity, frequently glinting with mischievous spontaneity. Known for diverse roles in jazz, folk and world music, Freestone and Mick have been friends for years, performing together in different ensembles, including the London Jazz Orchestra. But it was casual duo explorations in music from their combined eclectic influences, taking in the output of Thelonious Monk, which led to an enthusiastic invitation from Manchester Jazz Festival’s artistic director, Steve Mead, to develop the project for live performance in 2015.
“I’d always felt the two of us were like-minded”, explains Freestone. “We were in Tenerife, playing together quite a lot, and it felt so easy and so lovely (on rainy days, we’d just pull out another Monk tune); and we kept saying we should do it more often – and actually made it happen. Quite different from my trio with bassist Dave Manington and drummer Tim Giles – which is specifically chordless and very rhythmic – here we both shape the rhythm in a different way, following whatever direction the music takes us in; and with such amazing piano-playing, I can bring out the harmony in new and existing compositions”. Alcyona Mick reinforces the merits of the collaboration: “There’s plenty of space for creativity; and though a duo can be more challenging, I have much more freedom to use the whole piano – in this case, the beautifully warm, richly dark sound of a Fazioli Concert Grand at Stefano Amerio’s Artesuono studio in Italy”.
In Tori Freestone’s mathematically challenging 8/11 ‘Hermetica’, Brigitte Beraha’s characteristically high, wordless tones intertwine with Brazilian-imbued flute and piano in breathtaking synchronicity, while ‘Charmed Life’ offers a lyrical beauty far from its trio origins as balmy tenor melodies are enfolded by Mick’s sensitively rippling undercurrents. As well as interpreting the inherent quirkiness of ‘Criss Cross’ (“I love how the form of the middle eight is so weird”, says Freestone), the spirit of Monk can also be found in Mick’s strutting, bluesy promenade, ‘Strange Behaviour’; and previously conceived for quintet, and then two pianos, her bustling ‘Exchange’ features complex, dancing keyboard figures and vehement conversations with Freestone’s soprano. The concerto-like breadth of Alcyona’s ‘Goodnight Computer’ demonstrates how they regularly open out on the bandstand, these wayfaring twelve minutes painting fluctuating vistas and moods. Tori’s folk-tune ‘Press Gang’ (from her 2016 release, El Barranco), takes on a new guise, Beraha’s emotive vocal elucidating its dark poetry; and comedic, theme-tune-like ‘Mrs PC’ (from the In the Chop House album) leaps and shrieks with unfettered glee.
“We have great understanding and confidence in each others’ playing”, enthuses Freestone. “In fact, we sometimes find we’ve chosen to express exactly the same thing, prompting the mutual question, ‘How did you know I was going to do that?!’. We like to accept the challenge of whatever is put in front of us, finding a new way of getting inside the music; and Alcyona’s been working a lot on the world music scene recently, so it’s great to have her back on the jazz stage. Though the duo format can present a degree of vulnerability, this project especially engenders warmth, enjoyment and openness amongst the intensity and complexity. It’s both fun and heavy – a developing journey through the material and styles we love, all with the sheer joy of playing. On Criss Cross, we are delighted to have covered that range of emotions, which is so important to us”.
"The no-hiding-place exposure of an improvising sax/piano duo is a tough call but the British pairing of pianist Alcyona Mick and tenor saxophonist Tori Freestone make light of it."