Mark Wingfield, Jane Chapman, Adriano Adewale – Zoji (MoonJune, 2021)
Dwelling in that area between map and territory, between the apparent calmness of the score and the deceiving ubiquitness of the improvisation, the marriage between electric guitar and harpsichord is a meeting of opposites in many ways. First, two instruments which are testaments of two very different traditions. But also two different conceptions of the score and the improvisation. That’s eventually a false opposition, and Mark Wingfield and Jane Chapman make an effort to prove it wrong in multiple ways. In their latest record Zoji, this time extended in a trio with the addition of percussionist Adriano Adewale, they prove even more that there’s a junction they can meet.
British guitar virtuoso Mark Wingfield has garnered a wide attention since his blessed partnership with Moonjune label producer Leonardo Pavkovic and his contribution to such a wide ranging of improvisation records, but the collaboration he nurtures with harpsichordist Jane Chapman goes back in time. Even before their first record in 2008, sided by British jazz maestro Ian Bellamy, they started expressing interest in each other’s instrument. That is no surprise since they both reinterpret their own musical device in a quite extensive way, pushing the boundary of the tradition. From a composer’s point of view, this is the ultimate guitar composing landscape -says Wingfield about his collaboration with Chapman. I also liked the challenge of writing something that doesn’t have any dynamics to it. With the harpsichord, every note is exactly the same volume. So it’s all got to be done with subtle changes in timing to give the feeling of a dynamic.
This dialogue between an analogic dynamic-less instrument and a instrument that makes an extensive use of dynamics, although an electric guitar, is at the core of their collaboration. Zoji represents in a certain sense a leap forward, with the two of them focusing in exploring much more improvised interaction, with an use of prolonged and suspended plateau of soundscaping, rhythm-less and abstract renderings of landscapes of beauty, with the three of team interacting with pleasure and intimacy. Themes, like the ones in Seven Faces of Silence, are often disguised under blankets of breathtaking sonic reveries, travelling through multiple forms. Each musician blends seamlessly with the others. And even in tracks such as Persian Snow Leaopard, when there’s a clear and distinct thematic approach, Chapman and Wingfield seem to masterfully blend transitions between improvisaton and written parts, even more than they did in their past records. Chord changes are often subtle, with a modal tension pervading the entire recording: the deep chordal structure harpsichord and guitar often create, yet without clear tonal hooks, contributes to a bewildering and mesmerizing listening experience.
The title track contains one of the most enthralling moments of the record. An ascending parallel motion by the guitar explores odds intervals and creates a suspension. The following improvisation is unusually pensive, yet charged with a slowly increasing fire in it. At 1.50 Chapman and Wingfield are dialoguing, each one listening in an impressively careful manner to the other, moving at exactly the same pace. Wingfield suddenly bows down before the main theme comes back, this time in a more intimate way. Chapman feels she needs to add some occasional brush, until they both land at the highest pitch. At 3.43, in a maximalist explosion of ebullient madness, Wingfield switches his guitar to the bridge pickup and and Chapman makes use of the entire volume possibilities of her harpsichord. The subsequent, explosive moments show all the three of them conjuring up, now Adewale sustaining their aggressiveness with masterful strokes, hiking at the top of the mountain and pleasing the listening with two intense minutes of amazing improvisation.
Jane Chapman adds a bold vision on the tracks, like in the ending track Viaduct. Adewale, who was suggested to Wingfield by drummer and collaborator Asaf Sirkis, piles up a subtle and melodic arrangement to the atmospheric intro, before the harpsichodist delilvers a fast theme of ascending and descending scales, that could be easily fall in a contemporary prog album. But even when Chapman integrates the legacy of the instrument in today’s trio, the addition is evocative and imaginative. Pasquali’s Dream, a piece inspired by a figured bass from an instruction book written in 1763, sees the harpsichord alternative with pencil sounds coming from within the instrument and occasional birdsongs, which adds evocative and playful dialogues. Prelude Sinueux and the intense dialogue the two melodic instruments create is aptly described by Chapman herself: Prelude Sinueux is based on an anonymous unmeasured prelude from the early 18th century. The notation is such that it allows the performer a lot of rhythmic and stylistic freedom. Picking up on this aesthetic, Mark and I took it to its limits, turning into something else.
A reflective, intimate and emotional meeting, Zoji is a disc of pure listening experience that demands care and offers beauty in exchange.
Mark Wingfield, Jane Chapman, Adriano Adewale
1.City Story 05:11
2.Seven Faces Of Silence 06:36
3.Persian Snow Leopard 08:18
4.Parallel Time 08:42
5.Land On Sky 06:39
6.Sun Court 03:18
7.Wind Falls Cliffs Rise 07:22
8.Pasquali Dream 02:20
9.Zoji Pass 06:08
10.Prélude Sinueux 04:22
11.Viaduct Road 05:49
MARK WINGFIELD – guitar, soundscapes
JANE CHAPMAN – harpsichord
ADRIANO ADEWALE – percussion, vocals
All compositions by Mark Wingfield except Pasquali’s Dream and Prélude Sinueux. Pasquali’s Dream was taken from a figured bass example (1763), realised by Jane Chapman. Prélude Sinueux – inspired by an anonymous prélude non mesuré (1716) arranged by Jane Chapman and Mark Wingfield.