Jan Ponsford / Frances Knight / Vince Clarke / Hugh Hopper

The Swimmer

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What a beautiful encounter! In the left corner, keyboardist Frances Knight, percussionist Vince Clarke, and bassist Hugh Hopper, a trio of musicians accustomed to each other. In the right corner, Hastings vocalist Jan Ponsford. The Swimmer was recorded on October 15, 1998 at Delta Studios in two one-hour sessions, later edited to 63 minutes. Everything was improvised on the spot. Ponsford's vocalizing is reminiscent of what Theo Bleckmann did with the Ben Monder Trio (see No Boat on Songlines Records): soft vocals with lots of echo soaring over the music, fitting the changes in the improv, hugging it (like on "Uszibarasc"). Her singing is very melodic and comes from the heart. She can go from ballad mode to scat mode in no time, always finding the best way to serve the moods worked out by Knight, Hopper, and Clarke. And what moods! Jazz grooves, Brazilian feels, and some things impossible to describe. But The Swimmer remains very easy to listen to. There is no "noise work" here, no sound pollution; everything stays rather tonal and jazz inflicted, but at the same time totally free. Clarke's light percussive work usually gives a flooring under Knight's cascading piano or organ grooves while Hugh Hopper works out some incredible basslines. And that wonderful voice. On the downside, some fade-outs come to quickly, depriving the listener from what happened after (this happens on "Vinnie Goes to Trinni" where, after two-and-a-half minutes of build-up, the music fades just as it gets very interesting). But apart from a few questionable choices, The Swimmer makes a great record of lighter improvised music, the kind of record you won't be scared of putting in the CD player when you have friends over for dinner.

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