Corey Mwamba – Presenting the past as the future

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.

3 thoughts on “Corey Mwamba – Presenting the past as the future”

  1. This is gorgeous! Thank you for sharing it. I’m definitely going to check out the album. The Debussy comparison struck me, since we’ve recently been discussing how Debussy found inspiration in the sounds and relationships of the gamelan. I increasingly find joy in music for one performer. Maybe because it echoes the solitary nature of our lives at the moment?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really perceptive comment from Alison about the power of solitude and its importance and relevance in times of isolation. Surely a factor in the rise of the singer songwriter phenomenon which began in the 60s and continues to this day. When my generation returned to our lonely bedsits in the dark evenings, we would often turn to Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman etc. When it’s just the one singer, they seem to be singing just for you – when it’s a band playing, you are more of an onlooker listening in to someone else’s party.

      And it’s the same with instruments. A solo vibraphone, oboe or anything else is playing just for me. Joni Mitchell describes this well in her song ‘For Free’ – about a solo clarinettist playing on a noisy street corner in New York.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The fade out part is like breathing. It felt like a new life, another chance or a new possibility. A solo vibraphone in a room is something special. Makes me want to be in the exact same room with it. Thanks for sharing this. I’ll surely check out the rest of the album.

    Liked by 1 person

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