Jess Gillam (soprano & alto saxophones) with various artists
Recorded at numerous venues between June 2018 & January 2019
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: April 2019
CD No: DECCA 483 4862
Duration: 52 minutes
Be warned, if you leave your volume control where it normally is you are likely to get your head blown off or find your speakers have disintegrated to a pile of dust as if struck by a missile: the transfer level of Jess Gillam’s Rise is disco-loud with a vengeance, and it’s difficult to find a level that suits the fourteen selections (invariably arranged, often by John Harle, who is the producer of Rise) across the whole.
Among Gillam’s collaborators are Miloš Karadaglić, a lush-sounding BBC Concert Orchestra (gloss-by-design), its six tracks conducted either by Richard Balcombe or Jessica Cottis, and various others – three pianists, the Tippett Quartet, a couple of violinists, a cellist … five recording venues and six engineers.
Musically, there is also a range – including Kate Bush, Shostakovich, John Williams, David Bowie, Weill, Milhaud, Marcello, Dowland, Michael Nyman, Harle himself, and – oddly termed a “Bonus Track” – Francis Lai’s Love Story Theme.
Everybody shines, although at least one of the pianos raises a doubt in terms of its timbre, but this is Gillam’s (debut) album, to be issued on April 26, and she’s great, fantastically virtuosic when required but always with the music at heart, and she is unbelievably shapely, sensitive and tender in slower numbers – deeply affecting in fact.
No star-rating for this one though; as releases go it’s all over the place, but make no mistake: Jess herself is ★★★★★ and Rise will make a very agreeable late-evening cocktail, lights and volume turned-down low.