Andy Sheppard Quartet’s Surround by Sea

4th November 2015

Title: Surround by Sea

Label: ECM

Sheppard is a rather easy going kinda guy. At least he his if you judge him by his sax playing. On this new release, he works with Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset, French bassist Michel Benita and drummer Seb Rochford from Polar Bear.

There is a real sense of freedom, space and air in the first track, Tipping Point, which is emphasised by the sax but almost enhanced by the shimmering cymbal work of Rochford. It flows like the tides. It’s when we get to the second track, I Want to Vanish, that we notice some of the electronic sounds from Rochford which give the Sheppard sound a rather expectant feel. This is a track that is waiting…for something. The band play while they wait. Jazz for Godot, perhaps?

That electronica interlude is back on Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir (Part 1). In fact, although it resides to the rear of the soundstage, it gives the music track a sort of soundscape feel while Sheppard flows over the top like an Albatross, gliding thousands of feet in the air, riding the updrafts and soaring.

The tone of the CD continues with Origin of Species but we are treated, early in the track, to the talents of double bass man, Michael Benita, who was no doubt encouraged to spread his wings and to relax by Sheppard.

The CD encourages and builds a sort of jazz ambience that had this reviewer gazing out of the window deep in thought when he should have been writing!

That said, the final track, Looking for Ornette, is a little bit more introspective. We’re not talking fireworks but the tone changes. A nice little tangent to finish on.