Corey Mwamba is a musician, promoter, arts advocate and researcher from Derby. He is the current presenter of Freeness, a weekly show on BBC Radio 3 which “presents the best new jazz and improvised music with an adventurous spirit”.
From Mwamba’s album (?)voke: nine, Presenting the past as the future is a lovely track for solo vibraphone. OK, the vibraphone is not the loudest instrument out there, but that’s hardly the issue. When it is played softly, really softly, there is still a richness to the sound that you don’t get with most other instruments playing at this quiet dynamic level. So this piece has many quiet passages and phrases which play out slowly allowing the extraordinarily rich overtones to sustain and merge to provide a mesmerising harmonic backdrop. The timbres of these sounds are such that we do not perceive these overlaps as dissonances. Rather it’s a richness of subtle colours, often ghostly and ethereal, which perhaps recall some passages from Debussy or Ravel.
The piece opens with some bluesy phrases preparing us for a smooth, relaxing jazz experience. But then a surprise. The music breaks free from its blues heritage and for a while seems uncertain where to go next. Is it moving into Bill Evans territory or heading for something more ‘classical’? Some fascinating musical ambiguity here. And then there is the ending which is truly extraordinary. During the fadeout of what has been a quiet piece, we hear very faint echoes of ‘vocalised’ sounds – recalling times past and ancient cultures? Perhaps the clue is in the title. Either way, a refreshingly original piece which I shall return to in the future – and possibly, the past.