Steve Bereford: Cue Sheets II

Steve Beresford

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Steve Bereford: Cue Sheets II Review

by Dave Lynch

Steve Beresford, one of the most eclectic personalities on the British improvised music scene, reveals himself to be quite an effective composer of film soundtracks on his pair of Cue Sheets CDs. Of the two volumes, both released on the Tzadik label, the second is a bit less assertive on average, at times slipping a bit more easily into the realm of background music, while also rummaging through a grab bag of stylistic influences from across the globe. Vol. 2 is similar to the first installment in its mixture of tracks ranging from over 15 minutes to below two minutes in length, but the emphasis is shifted toward longer pieces this time and there are about half as many tracks overall as a result. However, even the long selections are highly episodic, with often abrupt mood shifts signaling scene changes; if not for the recurring thematic motifs of Beresford's lengthier cues, the casual listener might be hard-pressed to distinguish between a single extended composition and a grouping of shorter ones. (Indeed, three separate songs crop up during the nearly 14-minute "Sari and Trainers," although they are not given their own distinct tracks.) The opening "Soul Patrol," written for a contemporary vampire tale, could almost be Latin-flavored smooth jazz if not for interjections from the Emperor String Quartet of London and various rumbling and rolling percussive effects, creating a chilling mix of the ominous and the ethereal. Like "Soul Patrol," the "Sari and Trainers" cue was written for a film set in a London location, but thematically couldn't be more different than music for a vampire flick. Sari & Trainers, a 15-minute short film, concerns a multicultural romance between two young residents of the East End, and was shot in the style of a Bollywood epic. Perhaps the most varied track on Vol. 2, "Sari and Trainers" includes the three aforementioned songs (sung in Hindi) and leaps abruptly back and forth from synth-fueled club/dance-styled segments to floating drones -- complete with sarangi, flutes, tablas, udu, and santur -- that evoke the atmosphere and spirituality of Indian culture. For those with a preference for the jazzier Beresford, the strongest track would likely be the 11-minute "Paris, Brixton," with its conventional jazz quartet lineup of trumpet/fl├╝gelhorn, keyboards, bass, and percussion shifting unconventionally through mid-tempo post-bop and cool jazz, third stream chamber jazz (with a nearly completely different version of the Emperor String Quartet in support), and even small bits of clattering free improv and groove-based jazz-house. And for oddball Beresford, there's Hans Reichel's crazy daxophone during the midsection of "Watermark," sounding like a musical interpretation of gastroesophageal reflux. Like other albums combining soundtrack material from a number of disparate films, this isn't the most cohesive recording in the world, but the consistently high recording quality throughout provides an element of continuity, while Beresford's mastery of so many styles is impressive and even uncanny. For listeners seeking a demonstration of the eclectic Brit's composing talents at their most wide-ranging, Cue Sheets, Vol. 2 is a worthy introduction. By the way, Beresford has also composed music for Honda, Sure deodorant, and Ovaltine commercials; while undoubtedly revealing yet another side of his talents, inclusion of these bits on a future Tzadik compilation seems unlikely.

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