Howard Riley | The Complete Short Stories 1998-2010 | 6CD Box Set | No Business Records

6 CD Box Set

Howard Riley – piano

All compositions by Howard Riley (PRS/MCPS). Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Producer – Danas Mikailionis Co-producer – Valerij Anosov

NoBusiness Records NBCD 21-26, 2011. Limited edition of 300 boxes

Tracks: CD 1: 1. The Opener 3‘08“ 2. Eleven 2‘31“ 3. Liason 4‘25“ 4. Encore 7‘25“ 5. Echoes 2‘59“ 6. No Void 3‘03“ 7. Stretch 2‘56“ 8. Mythology 6‘48“ 9. Branching 2‘12“ 10. Hullabaloo 3‘47“ 11. New Winter 2‘18“ 12. Largo 2‘42“ 13. Played In 2‘25“14. Veracity 1‘50“ 15. Only One 2‘59“ 16. Headway 1‘39“ CD 1 was recorded on 23rd July 1998

Tracks: CD 2: 1. Short Stories 3‘21“ 2. Dedication 5‘12“ 3. Sun One 3‘50“ 4. One More Time 2‘53“ 5. Axis 3‘19“ 6. The Furthest Point 3‘47“ 7. After Which 4‘49“ 8. Air Time 2‘14“ 9. Alternatives 2‘10“ 10. Regeneration 4‘21“ 11. For Jaki 3‘51“ 12. To Be Sure 2‘40“ 13. Sun Two 3‘05“ 14. Sincerity 3‘45“ 15. Of Now 3‘22“ CD 2 was recorded on 11th April, 1999

Tracks: CD 3: 1. Geocentric One 3‘43“ 2. Up And Downs 2‘50“ 3. With Ease 3‘14“ 4. The Gap 3‘17“ 5. Think Again 3‘24“ 6. Geocentric Two 3‘26“ 7. Palmate 3‘32“ 8. Walkabout 2‘34“ 9. Reconciliation 3‘33“ 10. Branch Lines 3‘24“ 11. Head Games 2‘35“ 12. Splits 2‘32“ 13. Concision 3‘48“ 14. Shenanigans 3‘10“ 15. Maybe 5‘40“ CD 3 was recorded on 29th June 2004

Tracks: CD 4: 1. Another Time 3‘36“ 2. No Regrets 3‘12“ 3. Ascending 2‘10“ 4. Still Standing 3‘20“ 5. Threesome 2‘27“ 6. Of the Moment 4‘30“ 7. Reflective Tendencies 4‘42“ 8. Inevitably 3‘19“ 9. Sentiments 3‘27“ 10. Open Question 4‘29“ 11. Hidden Knowledge 4‘52“ 12. Meeting 2‘21“ 13. Hear Me Out 6‘11“ 14. Passing 3‘00“ 15. Roots 6‘04“ CD 4 was recorded on 2nd August 2006

Tracks: CD 5: 1. Autograph 5‘02″ 2. Distance 3‘09“ 3. Silhouette 4‘10“ 4. Only One 3‘10“ 5. The Fourteenth 4‘10“ 6. There You Are 3‘54“ 7. Evidently 2‘44“ 8. Related 4‘34“ 9. Moving 3‘47“ 10. Equanimity 3‘47“ 11. Stopped 2‘52“ 12. Reversal 5‘59“ 13. Thinking of Midnight 4‘42“ CD 5 was recorded on 27th June 2008

Tracks: CD 6: 1. Dark On Light 11‘04“ 2. Set Aside 10‘00“ 3. Longevitine 11‘19“ 4. Move On 9‘22“ 5. Composure 11‘08“ CD 6 was recorded on 22nd April 2010

All compositions by Howard Riley (PRS/MCPS). Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Producer – Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov

NoBusiness Records NBCD 21-26, 2011. Limited edition of 300 boxes

Howard Riley | The Complete Short Stories 1998-2010 | 6CD Box Set | no business records

The beauty of a short story

of course, is that it can be taken in at a sitting, indeed is so structured and formulated that it represents a single, continuous verbal performance, unlike the episodic or architectural structure of a long novel. It is, to that extent, a form that lends itself rather well to musical analogies, though not at first glance to improvised music, which tends to subordinate artful structure to moment-by-moment invention. And yet the greatest short stories can often seem improvised: brief, epiphanic flashes where the next step and the eventual outcome remain in doubt to the very end. There’s something of the humane embrace of Chekhov, Hemingway’s muscle, reticence and resistance to mere abstraction, but perhaps it’s Henry James, that master of indefinable atmospheres and of the tense dialogue between Old World and New World cultures. This is the realm Howard Riley occupies with magisterial confidence, jazz given not just a catch-all cisAtlantic accent but with Howard’s distinctive burr, classical language not simply swung but put through a harmonic and rhythmic gate that transforms it utterly. How to hear him? Italo Calvino, another master of the short form, put it perfectly: ‘It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear.’ — Brian Morton

Howard Riley | The Complete Short Stories 1998-2010 | 6CD Box Set | no business records

Piano, piano, piano, ….

Totally stuck with far too much on my plate, professionally and privately, the great music that is coming my way does not get the attention it deserves. The albums are here on my left, piling up, screaming to be listened to, complaining when only listened to once, depressed when put on the “hold” pile (also on my left but less so). So I must change the approach, and tell you less about more albums.

When I bought Keith Jarrett’s “Sun Bear Concerts” many years ago, I was completely lost by the sheer amount of music on the 6 album box with only solo piano. Some pieces were to my immediate liking, some took some time to absorb, but finding those pieces back was almost impossible unless I listened to the entire six albums again. That’s the feeling I have with Howard Riley’s new compilation on No Business : it is a lot of music, spanning more than a decade of solo performances. How do you get your ears around this?

Riley is kind of his own genre : a lyricist and synthesist, someone who manages to carve his own voice from material coming from the entire music legacy, from classical to modern music, with obvious jazz as a major influence. In contrast to musicians like Jarrett, Riley does not need the epic lengths to come to a climax, hence the real appropriate title of “short stories”, in which you don’t need the entire history, but just a glimpse, a snapshot of good ideas, perfected in its smallness, in its uniqueness. The end result is one of close intimacy, recognisable and human. It is also not about the musician, nor about the pyrotechnics. It’s all about the music. Fresh, simple, but a lot of it. — Stef


6 CD Box – Set version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

$ 45.00
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2 thoughts on “Howard Riley | The Complete Short Stories 1998-2010 | 6CD Box Set | No Business Records

  1. Veteran British pianist Howard Riley has found a champion from an unexpected source in the adventurous Lithuanian label, No Business. After issuing a double CD of the pianist’s one man concert in the capital, Live In Vilnius (2010), it has gone further with a box set collecting a brace of previously released solo double disc sets along with a another two discs of previously unreleased material. Riley revels in the exposed format: he already has at least 11 solo sets to his name, but this collection is more than justified and deserves to elevate Riley to the upper echelons of the piano pantheon.

    Born in Huddersfield 68 years ago, the pianist has had a varied career, ranging from the early trios featuring bassist Barry Guy, to piano duos with Jaki Byard and Keith Tippett, to small groups with reedmen Elton Dean and Lol Coxhill, coming full circle as soloist with Guy’s London Jazz Composers Orchestra. What distinguishes his work is a keen intelligence and an orchestral conception, even when in the spotlight alone. Short Stories (1998) and Short Stories Volume 2 (2006) were originally issued on the ESProductions and Slam labels. The fifth disc was recorded in 2008 but has never previously seen the light of day, while the sixth was created in 2010 especially for this issue.

    Even with such disparate recording dates, Riley sustains a remarkable focus throughout: his playing is richly voiced and lucent, and his technique audacious, whether shifting from bracing two handed independence to vibrant call and response or single note streams on dampened strings. It’s not clear if the pieces were composed, preconceived or spontaneous, but there are few obvious melodies or heads. Instead he adheres to an austere modern palette, somewhere between a more urgent Paul Bley and a less percussive, decelerated Cecil Taylor. But he leavens any perceived harshness with broad hints of jazz, blues, stride and romanticism, all assembled into finely balanced miniatures. His twin touchstones of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk are sensed rather than worn on the sleeve, with the only overt homage appearing at the close of the fifth disc on “Thinking of Midnight,” where Riley paraphrases the latter’s classic. While it is possible to name check any number of references to do so ignores the fact that Riley has transcended his influences to become a singular voice.

    Notwithstanding a marked consistency of tempo, Riley programs to avoid excessive similarity so the warmth of “Think Again,” which could be a ballad from the tradition with chord changes and rippling treble register runs, is followed by the arrhythmic stabs of “Geocentric Two.” Elsewhere “Hullabaloo” essays a sparkling barrelhouse undergirding, embellished by right hand variations, as the left maintains a tripping bass rumble, while the following “New Winter” could almost be more abstract revisions hewn from the same seam. Ultimately comparing sources becomes a distraction. Even where a link exists, as when Riley explains in the illuminating sleeve note that for the final session he returned to the substance of the previous date to create five longer extended form pieces, it’s impossible to discern any connection.

    With 74 cuts, most in the 2-5 minute range, it’s fruitless picking out individual highlights. Each pass yields different pleasures. Tracks that stand out in one listen are overshadowed by others the next depending on mood. The brevity of the tracks works in their favor. As distillations of ideas, pared down to the essentials, shorn of padding, they encourage concentration and allow enjoyment to flourish in bite-sized chunks. When allied with the unfailing level of artistry it makes this collection one of the finds of the year.

  2. Moving from orchestrations to a more singular but just as wide-ranging project is British pianist Howard Riley’s The Complete Short Stories 1998-2010. Extended essays in the art of solo piano, these six CDs present 74 tracks which range in length from slightly more than one and a half minutes to almost seven and a half plus five novella-sized meditations from 2010. Someone whose interests include contemporary notated music as well as every variety of jazz, Riley’s showcases are consistent as well as brief.

    One of the most affecting tracks is For Jaki on CD 2, a bouncy ditty with Tin Pan Alley suggestions that honours the late American pianist Jaki Byard. Similarly the title tune is kinetic as well as dramatic, equally emphasizing high-pitched tremolo lines as well as a grounded narrative. Concision on the other hand, vibrates on the percussive harmonics which can be plucked from and strummed on the piano’s internal strings, while the steady lengthening lines of Another Time show harmonic references to Lennie Tristanto-like cool jazz. Riley’s discursive stop-time frequently recalls Thelonious Monk as on the tellingly titled Roots and elsewhere.

    Nonetheless, the extravagant dynamics he exhibits on The Opener are mirrored by his stentorian patterns on many other tunes, where Earl Hines-like walking bass notes and Cecil Taylor-like percussive runs vie for supremacy. Adventurous listeners on anyone’s gift list would appreciate any of these sets.

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