Rebecca Nash – Redefining Element 78: Album Review

Pianist and composer Rebecca Nash delivers a compelling musical vision on new album Redefining Element 78, supported by a fine ensemble of musicians.

Release date: 6th January 2023

Label: Whirlwind Recordings

Format: CD / Digital / Vinyl

Redefining Element 78 is the new album by pianist and composer Rebecca Nash. This new work was commissioned by the Bristol Jazz Festival and is a collection of eight pieces imagining sound in relation to the precious metals: Platinum, Osmium, Rhodium, Iridium, Ruthenium, and Palladium. This ambitious work is supported by a very gifted ensemble of musicians, including alongside Rebecca Nash, John O’Gallagher on saxophone, Jamie Leeming on guitar, Nick Malcolm on trumpet, Paul Michael on bass, Matt Fisher on drums and percussion, and Nick Walters and Chris Mapp providing electronics.

Platinum I opens the album, providing a form of thematic overture. Matt Fisher’s volcanic drumming leads the other players, as the soaring central melodic theme is stated. While Rebecca Nash adds some gorgeous piano flourishes into this arresting musical prelude.

Osmium, that follows, instantly impresses with Nick Malcolm’s lovely free flowing trumpet introduction. The track’s initial sedate rhythmic pace perfectly suits the ambient like solo accents delivered by Jamie Leeming’s guitar work and Rebecca Nash’s expressive and inventive piano runs. The drumming and Paul Michael’s bass work thrillingly run the full gamut of subtle and gentle to intense and strident. Clocking in at over nine minutes, the piece wonderfully holds your attention from start to finish.

Rhodium has a striking ensemble brass theme, and some fine atmospheric electronics, segueing into an echoing undulating bass pattern, that provides a perfect platform for Jamie Leeming’s liquid guitar solo, which propels some explosive phrases out of the speakers. The intensity reduces a little to provide plenty of space for John O’Gallagher’s sublime saxophone solo, which improvises some beautifully elegant melodies, before hitting a soaring tone as the full band come back in. This is a fine ensemble of musicians that Rebecca Nash has assembled. They push musical boundaries in terms of exhilarating improvisation, while also providing a sympathetic support for each other.

Iridium II is a shorter piece that has an enchanting ambience, as Rebecca Nash’s gorgeous piano work, thrillingly explores a range of melodic possibilities. Ruthenium, which proceeds Iridium 1, seems to hold the piano and rhythm section in a series of completely engaging improvised conversations, with John O’Gallagher’s saxophone joining and expanding the musical conversation towards the end of the piece. Iridium 1 utilises electronics and percussion to provide a wistful floating soundscape, that all the instruments weave in and out of in a discursive, free form set of musical observations. The sound production here as on the rest of the album is just superb. It feels like the listener is positioned in the center of the studio as the musicians improvise. With, in particular, the nuances of Matt Fisher’s compelling drumming being captured in every detail. 

Platinum II and Paladium – Noble Heart close the album. Platinum II has a beautiful flow as piano, brass and guitar weave some elegiac musical phrasing, that has a real emotional power as the rhythmic intensity increases, driven again by some fabulous drumming. Paladium – Noble Heart provides a final coda reinterpreting the central melodic motif across an impressionistic palette of musical sequences.

This is an excellent album that offers to the listener music that is both engaging and thoughtful. Rebecca Nash provides a musical vision that is compelling, and this music one can imagine will be quite thrilling to experience played live. Rebecca Nash will be playing Redefining Element 78 live, with the musicians who played on the album, at Ronnie Scott’s in London on the 16th February.

Mention should also be made of the album artwork, by Brooklyn based artist Pat Vale, which seems to perfectly complement the music, with its iconic imagery of chemistry equipment, fragments of musical instruments and city architecture.

You can view the official video for Iridium II, which features some of the album artwork, here:

Rebecca Nash: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

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