Album Review: Lewis Wright’s ‘Duets’ featuring Kit Downes

Vibraphonist Lewis Wright’s debut album on Signum features lifelong friend Kit Downes on piano and a short set of ravishing improvisations.

The only real problem with the album is that it's over all too quickly. But that might be a canny move on the part of Signum Classics – an album built for a playlist generation. The line between a playlist and an album may well be blurred or even indecipherable nowadays (especially when people start bandying around the word 'curation').

More and more I'm listening to entire album as statements in themselves. That's a good thing for the composer and the performer in our on-demand world, moving the listening experience beyond the technicalities of performance or the purity of the capture, transforming a list of tracks into a richer, more immersive experience. 

In that way 'Duets' delivers. It is an addictive listen. A carefully put together list of new works that shift effortlessly from one mood to another (I'm trying desperately to avoid the word 'curation' here), avoiding musical cliche, and showcasing the dizzying technical mastery of both musicians in every single bar. 

‘Duets’ opens with Fire & Flow, a track built on a recurring three-chord motif that rocks between menace and moments of joyous celebration.

Fortuna builds the intensity with a similarly pleasing commitment to the use of blistering piano chords, decorated with a melodic line that both knows its boundaries but insists pushes them as far as is possible. Fireworks abound. Jaws drop accordingly. 

The third track – An Absence of Heart – offers a poignant moment of reflection. There’s a hint of the West Coast in there with a smattering of mid-20th century Paris to boot, mixed with a tantalising hint of mystery.

The fierce opening subject that starts Tokyo 81 appeals because of its tidiness, punchiness, and desperately cool articulation. The main subject’s unrelenting pursuit towards its ultimate conclusion is a thing of beauty.

It is the fifth track – the sweet-sounding Sati – on the album which really shines for me, laying out a story dripping with melancholy, loneliness and regret. Here Downes and Wright create a creepy kind of air with a tightly-drawn melodic subject and relatively contained improvisation. A circus feel underpins Sati which gives the whole thing a alluringly pensive kind of feel. An introvert's montage music. 

'Duets' featuring Lewis Wright and Kit Downes is available for pre-order now on Amazon and released on Friday 6 April. 

Read an interview with pianist Kit Downes on the Meet The Artist site. 

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