The Classics: December 5th

Small Holes in the Silence.  Norman Meehan (piano), Hannah Griffin (voice), Hayden Chisholm (saxophone). Rattle CD

This Kiwi jazz will not offend the ears of most classical music lovers. In fact, the performances should quietly delight them. The improvisations by this trio, based mainly on Meehan’s settings of famous poems by New Zealanders, has produced very sensitive "cool" (in both meanings of that word) sounds, beautiful, respectful and enhancing the power and meaning of the original poetry. The album title comes from a line in Hone Tuwhare’s poem Rain, and the other poems that inspired these settings (12 tracks) come from James K. Baxter, Bill Manhire, Alistair Campbell, David Mitchell and Eileen Duggan.

Griffin’s voice is fitted to the task and succeeds in giving dimensions to the poems. Much credit goes to Meehan’s basic thoughts on the musical accompaniments with his sparse, slow and respectful chords on the piano illuminating rather than diverting from the words, beautifully sung by Griffin (reminiscent of singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell’s voice at times.)

The heavenly saxophone playing by Chisholm blends into the perception of poetry as a fine partner to musical expression. His sax provides a beautiful, restrained solo that opens Manhire’s poem Death of a Poet and impresses with sweet and sensitive introductions to others, also blending in colours in the backing of most of the poems.  Manhire (in the interesting booklet) says what he likes most  is "words and music are equal participants and that the final effect feels both surprising and inevitable". Other standout tracks are High Country Weather (Baxter), Blue Rain (Campbell), Warehouse Curtains  (Manhire) and Yellow Room (Mitchell) where Griffin provides her own chorus by dubbed multiple tracks.

Verdict: Enjoyable harmony of our poetry and music.

- Geoff Adams

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