This is not your typical Matchless recording. Although composer Dave Smith had a long history of involvement with the British avant-garde of the '60s, he, like fellow artists Cornelius Cardew and Howard Skempton, turned toward a more traditional brand of composition. This disc is an odd collection of 12 brief sonatas, each focusing on a particular musical genre in a surprisingly straightforward manner. So, when a piece is titled "Charleston," that's pretty much what you get: a standard, if attractive, rendition of a generic charleston-type song. Likewise for rambles, mambos, and tangos. Some similarities to William Bolcom's pieces, like "Ghost Rag," come to mind, but Smith appears to be presenting the songs without either irony or nostalgia. A few of the sonatas venture into more unusual territory, like those dealing with dub and Indian music. Even these sound a bit more uncomfortable, as though the composer didn't have a genuine feel for the genres and was merely dipping his toes. All of the works are performed by John Tilbury, a pianist better known for his work in the improvising ensemble AMM and for his sublime interpretations of Morton Feldman. For novelty value alone, Tilbury fans will be fascinated to hear him in this more traditional setting and he acquits himself quite well, including pulling off a passable Thelonious Monk imitation. Without a more thorough description of Smith's intentions, the music is perfectly pleasant, if lacking in probity.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick
|First Piano Concert, sonatas 1-12 for piano|