Howard Riley | Solo in Vilnius |No Business Records

Howard Riley : piano

This record has been made possible by generous support of UAB “Garsu pasaulis”. NoBusiness Records NBCD 12/13, 2010, Limited edition of 500 CD’s * Recorded September 11, 2009 2009 in Vilnius, at St. Catherine’s Church * Recorded, mixed and mastered by Arunas Zujus at MAMAstudios * Photos by Oskaras Anosovas * Design by Oskaras Anosovas. * Executive producer – Danas Mikailionis. * Co-producer – Valerij Anosov.

Tracklist : CD 1 | 1. Starting Up 9’41” 2. Six With Five 9’25” 3. Proof 10’18” 4. There And Back 8’42” 5. Round Midnight 7’01” 6. Secret Moves 9’15”


Tracklist: CD 2 | 7. Hello Again 7’56” 8. Space Cadets 7’39” 9. Formerly 5’15” 10. New Walkway 7’29” 11. Yesterdays 6’09” 12. Misterioso 5’52” 13. Encore 1’50”

It was a magical Autumn

day in Vilnius – Mr. Howard Riley was giving his rare solo performance at St. Catherine’s Church. The outcome is this two CD set of deep musical contemplation, freedom and lyricism. After the concert Howard Riley said that this was his best solo performance in many years.

No stranger to being alone in the spotlight

Solo In Vilnius is at least the 11th such entry in English pianist Howard Riley’s extensive discography. Musically active for more than 40 years, Riley, now in his 60s, enjoys an impressive résumé which name checks the cream of British improvisers, including London Jazz Composers” Orchestra, Keith Tippett and Tony Oxley.

Recorded live in St. Catherine’s Church in Vilnius, Lithuania, the 13 cuts spread across the two discs’ 96 minutes, comprising ten seemingly improvised originals, one standard and two from the Thelonious Monk
canon. From the cover shot of a darkened cathedral-like building, the performance space appears large and, from the reverb, it sounds it too, coming on bright but diffuse, the aural equivalent of looking too long at the sun.

There are no explicit themes on the originals, though the pianist’s extemporizations are not unmelodic. Riley is, however, a master of two-handed independence. His lines converge, proceed in parallel, and diverge—at times almost unrelated—to evoke an orchestral feel of more than one voice at play. It’s tempting to infer the effect he is seeking from the sequence of overdubbed duets with himself scattered through his back catalogue. Indeed, in the liner note interview he remarks how solo work makes it possible to have a conversation with one’s self.

The liners also speak to Riley’s huge harmonic resource, bespeaking an interest in every style of jazz and notated music, and that is certainly still true. Arpeggios ring out as if water trickling over rocks. Riley is not a hugely rhythmic player; he could be called florid, were it not for the substance and space in his playing. Of particular note is “There And Back,” which delights in its muffled hammered notes (a hand inside or preparation?), with an opening repetition utilized as a recurrent motif until a striking finale-like tinkling string of pearls, reverberating against thundering chords.

Both the Monk selections and “Yesterdays” arrive lightly disguised before the familiar cadences emerge, but Riley doesn’t take them straight. On “Round Midnight,” for example, he speeds up only to slow, rubato fashion, piling on harmonic rather than rhythmic complexity. “New Walkway” is once more fashioned from that winning combination of rich chordal grounding and beaten single notes, while the brief “Encore” distils to the essence—stately and opulent. — John Sharpe


Double CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

$ 21.00
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Double LP version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

$ 38.00
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2 thoughts on “Howard Riley | Solo in Vilnius |No Business Records

  1. L’acoustique réverbérante de l’église Sainte-Catherine à Vilnius possède sans doute quelque importance quant à la belle réussite de ce concert de septembre 2009. Jouer du son, de sa prolongation, de son écho et de la possibilité de resserrer ou d’espacer la résonance du piano ; toutes choses qui sont, ici, pleinement exploitées par le pianiste Howard Riley.

    L’approche monkienne est là qui hante tout le concert et qui s’extériorise au détour d’un phrasé, d’une harmonie, d’une rupture (Round Midnight & Misterioso sont d’ailleurs présents pour en témoigner). Ici, Riley s’offre la liberté de n’offrir que l’effluve des thèmes de Monk, d’intervertir les mélodies, de déplacer à sa guise les blocs harmoniques en autant de séquences aléatoires étendues, et ce, sans jamais s’engluer dans une joliesse ou un lamento de prisunic. Privilégiant le registre grave du piano, jouant d’un continuum jamais rompu (le deuxième CD est de ce point de vue exemplaire), frôlant la dissymétrie sans jamais s’y abandonner totalement, Howard Riley signe, ici, un solo – me semble-t-il – magnifique.

  2. Howard Riley is relatively under-recorded as a solo artist, given that he has been playing avant-garde jazz since the early seventies, with names like Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill, Tony Oxley, Barry Guy, Trevor Watts, Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, to name but a few. On this double CD, recorded in the Saint Catherine’s Church in Vilnius, Lithuania he plays his own compositions/improvisations, with additionally some covers of the standards “Round Midnight”, “Misterioso” and “Yesterdays”. Riley’s playing is very openended, not spectacular or prone to dramatic effects, but is focused on careful development and further expansion of initial ideas. Even if open in spirit, his improvisations are quite controlled, never wild, never sweet or impressionistic, yet very lyrical and abstract. A rare combination.

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