Camden Reeves: Blue Sounds

This is not a classical pianist’s take on the blues but a study on the colour, from its abstractness as an electromagnetic wave to blues as a scale, a genre and a harmonic structure.

Blue is clearly an inspiring colour: artist Yves Klein famously went through a blue phase, selecting blue after audiences failed to be moved by paintings featuring a range of other pastel colours, which greatly irked him. Reeves mentions Klein in the sleeve notes, saying he was a conceptual artist “par excellence … one single shade, devoid of all form or content … enough to express everything and nothing”.

Reeves is also a jazz fan and quotes Miles Davis’s A Kind of Blue. The sleeve itself is a nod to the Blue Note jazz label, whose album sleeves were famous for their colour and typography.

The record was recorded by pianist Tom Hicks, after around 10 years of collaborations on the three works that appear: Tangle-Beat Blues, Blue Sounds for Piano and Nine Preludes.

Tangle-Beat Blues opens (12 minutes) and it’s something of a technical tour de force, a gentle opening but rapidly introducing a more strident tone before settling into a busy piece (with quieter sections), with rapid playing that kinda sorta nearly could be jazz. Hicks’ playing is very impressive.

Blue Sounds for Piano is next and is more abstract; it’s less busy than the preceding track but a harder listen as the music is unsettled after a quiet start. The rest of the album is the Nine Preludes, which are somewhere between difficult and not. A bit like Klein, Reeves takes the idea of blue and stretches it as much as he can, not always easy on the ear. Perhaps one for lovers of technical piano, although it’s not too unapproachable.

Klein eventually used his work on colour to design a housing estate that people would enjoy living in, so maybe Reeves will eventually get round to an easy listening album of BB King songs made accessible for all. Or not.

This is out on Metier, msv 28604.

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