Saturday, January 3, 2015

Entertaining and Intelligent CD from Tate Sheridan

Tate Sheridan
CD Released December 2014
Reviewed by Clinton White

At just 21 years of age, jazz pianist Tate Sheridan shows an advanced maturity in his playing and his composing.  For one so young he has achieved much in his career already, including appearances at a range of concerts and festivals and on recordings and studying with the likes of Matt Baker and Mike Nock.  Even Elton John has noticed him and has promoted his talent globally.  In 2014 he was given a Canberra Critics Circle music award.

Sheridan wrote and arranged all eight tunes on his self-titled CD.  In the liner notes he says drummer Aidan Lowe and bassist James Luke helped him “to bring these tunes to life”.  Quite so.

The disc opens with its longest track, at 10:38, “Please, No Questions”.  It’s full of energy but with an easy swing underlay, very much in the classic jazz style.

“Run, Don’t Walk” is more impressionistic but no less energetic with a long rather abstract but engaging piano solo opening.  When the rhythm section finally does come in it drives the piece solidly to the end.  Mike Nock himself would love to play it.

Throughout the album, in a thoughtful program structure, Sheridan & Co take us through many moods and music styles.  One minute he challenges us with abstract highs and lows, next taking us back to more familiar ground, swinging free and easy.  Then there’ll be something to make the listener think and reflect.  In “Lone Gunman” he traps the listener in a false sense of security waiting for just the right moment to reveal the horrible dramatic truth of the tale, but then with a reassuring, “don’t worry; it’ll be alright”.

The penultimate track on the album, “Grace”, is the second-longest, at 10:14.  At the CD launch concert at Smith’s Alternative Bookshop in Canberra, he said it has great personal meaning and significance.  That significance came through at the concert and does so equally on the CD.  It is a quiet, reflective, almost introspective piece with some very nice, kind of comforting, chord structures and melody lines supported by fabulous bass playing from Luke.  It makes the listener want to lay back, close their eyes, and just let the music wash over and soak through.  It’s an exceptionally beautiful piece.

Unusually the album finishes on another, even quieter and more pensive note with “My Stranger”.  It gives a strong focus to the piano with beautifully understated support from Lowe and Luke.  A very long, sustained single note fades away to conclude this very entertaining album of highly intelligent music composition and playing.

In his liner notes, Sheridan says he is “truly proud of this album”.  And deservedly so, too.