Reviews of Friendly Ghosts

Here are five great reviews of my solo album Friendly Ghosts, released last year (2017). Please click on the reviews to enlarge.

From Wire magazine (reviewed by Daniel Spicer):

From Jazzwise magazine (reviewed by Nick Hasted):

 

This is from London Jazz News:

http://www.londonjazznews.com/2017/08/cd-review-adam-fairhall-friendly-ghosts.html

CD REVIEW: Adam Fairhall – Friendly Ghosts 
(Efpi Records. Review by AJ Dehany) 

Adam Fairhall is a great example of an outside player who plays inside. Raised in Cornwall and resident in Manchester, he is pianist in Nat Birchall’s Coltrane-inspired band and piano-preparer in free improvisation sextet The Spirit Farm. He is one of the pool of musicians including drummer Johnny Hunter who are associated with but never profess to completely belong to the Manchester scene. His debut solo piano album Friendly Ghosts is released on that scene’s inspiring independent Efpi label run by Beats & Pieces Big Band leader Ben Cottrell. 

Friendly Ghosts has a lightness of touch, an abundance of invention, and a twinkling sense of mischief that make it an absolute scream. Pine Apple Rag slices Scott Joplin’s rag tune into piña colada. Egyptian Fantasy imbues a sibylline original with the ‘Spanish tinge’ of early New Orleans music. There’s some unabashedly postmodern thinking going into Fairhall’s gustaceous redigestions of boogie woogie, ragtime, ballad and New Orleans styles. By foregrounding the most fake-book elements of these ideas he deepens the dive into spontaneous elements, with a raucous sense of performative rather than academic deconstruction that goes beyond pastiche.

KT Boogie opens with dense digging at the low end of the piano leading to a broader conception celebrating the ‘Katy Line’ of blues lore and his two year old daughter Kate. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You is the closest to the ‘straight jazz playing’ of the ballad songbook, with enjoyable command and clear chops developed from significant experience as a sideman. Typically, Restaurant Music’s reflective mixture of Messiaen and Cecil Taylor gives way to Blue Square’s off-kilter blues.

The energy and exuberance of the performances springs from wow to how when you realize that the album was recorded live— on a solo piano progress around the North of England in 2014. The excellence of the sound, an invisibly-produced blend of warm piano and subtle ambience, comes in part from fantastic instruments on the two nights from which the album’s selections are drawn: the Steinway at St Ann’s in Manchester and the Kawai at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle.

The aptly named New Great Northern Stomp takes off from Chicago Blues legend Otis Spann’s eponymous Boogie Woogie, and drags us careening up the rippling route across the Peak District toward Manchester, clipping past the reservoirs at Woodhead and Crowden and almost certain death at the parish of Tintwistle or Glossop. Along the way you hear Northern accents: not the voice itself, but that quality of irreverence that nonetheless attends deep respect. The quality of pastiche is not strain’d.

 

From All About Jazz:

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/friendly-ghosts-adam-fairhall-efpi-records-review-by-roger-farbey.php

By Roger Farbey

* * * *

Following undergraduate studies, virtuoso pianist Adam Fairhall took a Master’s degree at Leeds College of Music, receiving a MMus in Jazz Studies (Performance) in 2005. Whilst at Leeds he studied with pianist Mark Donlon and took lessons with British jazz composer Matthew Bourne. The title of his album Friendly Ghosts, Fairhall’s debut recording as a soloist, gives a strong clue as to its contents, revisiting as it does the earliest sounds of jazz to the most avant-garde.

Stylistically, Fairhall’s is a melange of stride, ragtime, boogie-woogie, bop, blues and free improvisation. The trick he has finessed is to wrap-up these well-known styles in a novel format, so for example “KT Boogie” is underpinned by thunderous, rumbling notes played on the low registers. The right hand meanwhile explores the higher end of the piano in an almost crab-like fashion. Interspersed are flashes of free improvisation which are never allowed to drift far before familiar lines re-emerge.

Appropriately, “Pine Apple Rag” begins in Scott Joplin mode but breaks down, not entirely, but just enough to permit stride piano to interject. Although superficially playful-sounding, this is not meant as parody. An interesting stylistic comparator might be Derek Bailey‘s Ballads or his follow-up Standards because Fairhall comes close to Bailey’s latter recordings, but without deserting melodic structures in favour of chordal dissonance. The head is played but then is abandoned in favour of total improvisation. Another perfect example is “Blue Square” where the initial straight blues is deconstructed and broken down before resuming in stride format, in anything but a straight idiom.

As if to insert an interlude in the proceedings, there’s the unequivocally contemporary improvisation of “Restaurant Music” whilst the lengthy “New Great Northern Stomp,” opening in free territory, explores all possible stylistic avenues before its Terry Riley-esque percussive close. With his staccato-esque piano style Fairhall comes over as a mix of Thelonius Monk, Howard Riley and Cecil Taylor with some Meade Lux LewisArt Tatum and Erroll Garner thrown in for good measure.

Fairhall’s stream of consciousness inventiveness, which merges a myriad of styles, is rarely heard and few can get away with it. Perhaps some of Keith Jarrett meandering solo performances share some of Fairhall’s attributes as does Victor Borge’s eccentric, often hilarious approach, as echoed by Fairhall on the opening to Sidney Bechet’s “Egyptian Fantasy.” The late Dudley Moore could certainly handle, turn-on-a-dime, multiple styles, but in a comedic context. This however is not comedy music but something far more inventive and demanding. It’s also very good.

 

From Bandcamp Daily (reviewed by Dave Sumner, of EMusic and Bird is the Worm):

Adam Fairhall’s first solo recording goes reveals his talent for bringing together jazz of the past and present, and focusing it through the lens of his own singular perspective. On his excellent 2012 release The Imaginary Delta, the pianist created a convergence of jazz’s stages of evolution, where a rag or blues nestled comfortably alongside electronic effects and modern conventions that eschew swing and bop. But that album was made with an ensemble cast, which made it difficult to determine where the composer’s vision left off and that of the collaborators picked up. But Friendly Ghosts is Fairhall all by his lonesome, and the same confluence of jazz expressionism that marked his last session comes shining through. Nostalgic echoes of rag and stride come through strong on tracks like “KT Boogie” and “Pine Apple Rag,” while tracks like “Egyptian Fantasy” serve as a tour guide to jazz lineage. It’s one of the more intriguing solo recordings to be released in 2017.

 

The album received airplay on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, Daniel Spicer’s radio show The Mystery Lesson and multiple plays on Jazz FM. It also received a mention in the Best of 2017 round-up on Portuguese site Jazz.pt (in Jose Dias’s ‘best international discs’ list).

Wire article, May 2016

I neglected to upload this excellent article which appeared in Wire magazine last year. It’s on the new generation of Manchester improvisers, and I was interviewed along with many of my friends and favourite musicians. The photo on the second page is me. Please excuse the phone photos; if you click on them them should get much bigger…

First reviews of Friendly Ghosts

Friendly Ghosts, my solo piano album released last month (August 2017) on Efpi Records, has had a couple of great reviews so far (more reviews are expected!).

This is from London Jazz News:

http://www.londonjazznews.com/2017/08/cd-review-adam-fairhall-friendly-ghosts.html

CD REVIEW: Adam Fairhall – Friendly Ghosts 
(Efpi Records. Review by AJ Dehany) 

Adam Fairhall is a great example of an outside player who plays inside. Raised in Cornwall and resident in Manchester, he is pianist in Nat Birchall’s Coltrane-inspired band and piano-preparer in free improvisation sextet The Spirit Farm. He is one of the pool of musicians including drummer Johnny Hunter who are associated with but never profess to completely belong to the Manchester scene. His debut solo piano album Friendly Ghosts is released on that scene’s inspiring independent Efpi label run by Beats & Pieces Big Band leader Ben Cottrell. 

Friendly Ghosts has a lightness of touch, an abundance of invention, and a twinkling sense of mischief that make it an absolute scream. Pine Apple Rag slices Scott Joplin’s rag tune into piña colada. Egyptian Fantasy imbues a sibylline original with the ‘Spanish tinge’ of early New Orleans music. There’s some unabashedly postmodern thinking going into Fairhall’s gustaceous redigestions of boogie woogie, ragtime, ballad and New Orleans styles. By foregrounding the most fake-book elements of these ideas he deepens the dive into spontaneous elements, with a raucous sense of performative rather than academic deconstruction that goes beyond pastiche.

KT Boogie opens with dense digging at the low end of the piano leading to a broader conception celebrating the ‘Katy Line’ of blues lore and his two year old daughter Kate. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You is the closest to the ‘straight jazz playing’ of the ballad songbook, with enjoyable command and clear chops developed from significant experience as a sideman. Typically, Restaurant Music’s reflective mixture of Messiaen and Cecil Taylor gives way to Blue Square’s off-kilter blues.

The energy and exuberance of the performances springs from wow to how when you realize that the album was recorded live— on a solo piano progress around the North of England in 2014. The excellence of the sound, an invisibly-produced blend of warm piano and subtle ambience, comes in part from fantastic instruments on the two nights from which the album’s selections are drawn: the Steinway at St Ann’s in Manchester and the Kawai at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle.

The aptly named New Great Northern Stomp takes off from Chicago Blues legend Otis Spann’s eponymous Boogie Woogie, and drags us careening up the rippling route across the Peak District toward Manchester, clipping past the reservoirs at Woodhead and Crowden and almost certain death at the parish of Tintwistle or Glossop. Along the way you hear Northern accents: not the voice itself, but that quality of irreverence that nonetheless attends deep respect. The quality of pastiche is not strain’d.

 

This is from All About Jazz:

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/friendly-ghosts-adam-fairhall-efpi-records-review-by-roger-farbey.php

 

By Roger Farbey

* * * *

Following undergraduate studies, virtuoso pianist Adam Fairhall took a Master’s degree at Leeds College of Music, receiving a MMus in Jazz Studies (Performance) in 2005. Whilst at Leeds he studied with pianist Mark Donlon and took lessons with British jazz composer Matthew Bourne. The title of his album Friendly Ghosts, Fairhall’s debut recording as a soloist, gives a strong clue as to its contents, revisiting as it does the earliest sounds of jazz to the most avant-garde.

Stylistically, Fairhall’s is a melange of stride, ragtime, boogie-woogie, bop, blues and free improvisation. The trick he has finessed is to wrap-up these well-known styles in a novel format, so for example “KT Boogie” is underpinned by thunderous, rumbling notes played on the low registers. The right hand meanwhile explores the higher end of the piano in an almost crab-like fashion. Interspersed are flashes of free improvisation which are never allowed to drift far before familiar lines re-emerge.

Appropriately, “Pine Apple Rag” begins in Scott Joplin mode but breaks down, not entirely, but just enough to permit stride piano to interject. Although superficially playful-sounding, this is not meant as parody. An interesting stylistic comparator might be Derek Bailey‘s Ballads or his follow-up Standards because Fairhall comes close to Bailey’s latter recordings, but without deserting melodic structures in favour of chordal dissonance. The head is played but then is abandoned in favour of total improvisation. Another perfect example is “Blue Square” where the initial straight blues is deconstructed and broken down before resuming in stride format, in anything but a straight idiom.

As if to insert an interlude in the proceedings, there’s the unequivocally contemporary improvisation of “Restaurant Music” whilst the lengthy “New Great Northern Stomp,” opening in free territory, explores all possible stylistic avenues before its Terry Riley-esque percussive close. With his staccato-esque piano style Fairhall comes over as a mix of Thelonius Monk, Howard Riley and Cecil Taylor with some Meade Lux LewisArt Tatumand Erroll Garner thrown in for good measure.

Fairhall’s stream of consciousness inventiveness, which merges a myriad of styles, is rarely heard and few can get away with it. Perhaps some of Keith Jarrett meandering solo performances share some of Fairhall’s attributes as does Victor Borge’s eccentric, often hilarious approach, as echoed by Fairhall on the opening to Sidney Bechet’s “Egyptian Fantasy.” The late Dudley Moore could certainly handle, turn-on-a-dime, multiple styles, but in a comedic context. This however is not comedy music but something far more inventive and demanding. It’s also very good.

The Spirit Farm gets ace reviews!

I’ve been terrible at updating my site this past year (I blame it on the arrival of our second child!), but below are three of great reviews of The Spirit Farm’s eponymous album, released on SLAM in April 2015. The group, a  freely-improvising six-piece, performed at the  Southbank Centre in  November as part  of the 2015 London Jazz Festival, and we are hoping to get a tour together in the coming months.

The album also placed at no. 5 on Daniel Spicer’s end-of-year critics’ poll in Jazzwise magazine.

Link to New York City Jazz Record review:

New York City Jazz Record review of The Spirit Farm

Jazz Journal review:

Spirit Farm Jazz Journal review

 

Jazzwise review:

The Spirit Farm review, Jazzwise, June 2015

New album out today, April 27 2015

I’m pleased  to say that the debut, eponymous album by  The Spirit Farm is released today on SLAM. It’s an amazing line-up, with  myself on various mechanical keyboards, Christophe de Bezenac on tenor saxophone, Anton Hunter on electric  guitar, Johnny  Hunter  on drums, Dave Kane on bass and Corey Mwamaba on all sorts of things.

The album’s available from Amazon and all the usual places, or direct from SLAM:

http://www.slamproductions.net/menus/main.asp?PN=Detail&QItemID=325

 

 

MJF gigs 2014

I am looking forward to playing on 3 gigs at this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival:

21st July: A solo gig at St Ann’s Church, 14.50, FREE.

Part of the Northern Line showcase. I’ll  be doing half of it on the church’s wonderful grand piano, and half on my prepared mechanical keyboards, including a Hohner Pianet, a toy piano and a 100-year old Dulcitone.

22nd July: The Imaginary Delta with Jackie Kay, RNCM Theatre, 20.00, £17.50.

A collaboration between my project The Imaginary Delta and acclaimed poet Jackie Kay. This is the text from the MJF website:

Jackie Kay / narrator, poetry
Adam Fairhall / piano, composer
Steve Chadwick / trumpet
James Allsopp / clarinet, tenor saxophone
Chris Bridges / trombone, jug
Paul J Rogers / laptop, turntable, diddley bow
Tim Fairhall / double bass
Gaz Hughes / drums

Originally commissioned from Adam by mjf in 2011, this riotous re-imagining of early jazz forms via a mixture of old and new idioms, acoustic instruments new technologies is paired up with readings from one of Manchester’s best-loved poets.

Samples from vintage recordings are used to invoke the past in a soundworld that is playful, haunting and often downright unruly.  They include those of Bessie Smith, who also provides the inspiration for Jackie Kay’s work of the same name, in which the author boards a Pullman with the great blues singer to journey across Tennessee.

Tonight’s performance brings together these two masterpieces and also premières new collaborative work created especially for the occasion.

“A stunning achievement” – Bird is the Worm, Album of the Year

Can’t wait!!

23rd July: Nat Birchall Quintet, Band on the Wall, 19.30, £10 (a) £12 (d).

Nat’s music is intense, lyrical and soul-warming. I feel privileged to be in his band. Our latest album, Live in Larissa, has received 4 and  5 star reviews all over the place. Come down  to BotW and hear what the fuss is about!

The Markov Chain – new project!

The Markov Chain is a new trio with Adam on piano, Tim Fairhall on bass and British Free Music legend Paul Hession on drums. The trio play freely improvised music. Their debut performance was at the Manchester Jazz Festival 2013, a gig that received an excellent review by Mike Butler, who wrote:

This was the orgiastic, earth-shaking, cacophonous real deal, with none of the mimsy “I don’t feel ready for this yet” reticence that besets so much homegrown free jazz… The hour passed too quickly. I loved it.

The full review can be found on Mike’s website at:

http://www.dyversemusic.com/2013/08/manchester-jazz-festival-wednesday-31.html

The trio are currently mixing their debut album. Please keep an eye out for news about the album’s release and upcoming gigs.

Imaginary Delta also appeared on a couple of other ‘Best of’ lists…

The Imaginary Delta also placed at #63 on eMusic’s Best Albums of 2012. Here’s what they had to say:

On The Imaginary Delta, pianist and composer Adam Fairhall speaks with a forward-thinking attitude of innovation while channeling the voice of jazz’s past. A traditional rag becomes a futuristic avant-garde deconstruction. The use of effects and turntables enhance, rather than preclude, the expression of a soulful blues. A blowing session doesn’t miss a beat with the incorporation of sampling. Fairhall has united these disparate elements to create a remarkably engaging album of… both scope and vision, and is vivid evidence of the strength represented by a new generation of UK jazz musicians.              

4 stars.      http://www.emusic.com/music-news/list-hub/emusics-best-albums-of-2012-4/

The album also got an Honorable Mention on Ted Gioia’s Best of 2012 list. Gioia is a well-known American historian of jazz and blues; I remember finding his book The History of Jazz in the uni library many years ago and really getting into it. His book Delta Blues is great too. So I love the fact that he listened to our album and dug it.        http://tedgioia.com/bestalbumsof2012.html

The Imaginary Delta at The Forge, Camden, 22nd February 2013

On 22nd February 2013 The Imaginary Delta will be performing at the Forge in Camden, a wonderful venue. This is a rare London appearance for the project, and we hope very much to get a sizeable audience, and make the night a real event. Please spread the word!

Below is a link to the event page on the Forge’s website, with details of tickets, times, etc

http://www.forgevenue.org/whats-on/eventdetails/22-feb-13-pianoled-jazz-the-forge/