Review: Aurora – Mark Isaacs Resurgence Band

Aurora – Mark Isaacs Resurgence Band
Released by Gracemusic

CD Review by Phil Sandford

Mark Isaacs is one of the few musicians who combines composing and playing in both jazz and classical music, not to mention film, television and theatre. He has some 90 classical pieces to his credit, with influences including Scriabin, Delius, Ives and Satie. His jazz pedigree includes recordings with such notables as Roy Haynes, Kenny Wheeler, Bob Shepherd and Vinnie Coliauta.

As Paul Grabowsky commented in the liner notes to Isaacs’ Resurgence CD: ‘This combination of the best of two worlds defines Mark as a quintessential musician of our era.’

Aurora reflects this wide variety of musical influences and Isaacs emerges with carefully crafted and distinctive compositions which provide a range of different moods and plenty of inspiration for the soloists.

This excellent CD is the latest of five featuring his originals that he has recorded using a quintet format, and the brilliant guitarist James Muller has appeared on all of them. The close musical relationship between Muller and Isaacs is evident throughout and they are ably supported by Matt Keegan and the rock solid Brett Hirst and Tim Firth.

‘Will O’ The Wisp’ also has a life as a classical piano miniature referring to the ghostly lights sometimes seen at night over marshes but here the treatment is more muscular and everyone gets to solo.

‘For The Road’ is a funky line influenced by John Scofield that generates some fine solos from all band members. ‘Emergence’ is a driving piece in which Muller and Keegan alternate solos.

There are three ballads and Isaacs’ classical background and considerable technique shines through in the occasional moments when he plays alone, such as the opening to ‘Threnody’. Perhaps he will offer more of these delights in a future solo album. Isaacs’ pianistic influences include Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Lennie Tristano but, as with his compositions, he has developed his own voice.

‘Aurora’ begins with a delicate statement of the melody by Isaacs but the tension builds into a fitting climax to the CD.

The CD also includes a DVD of the band’s earlier release, Tell It Like It Is, which was recorded live in Sydney at the Sound Lounge in 2008. Apart from providing a chance to compare the same personnel performing live and in a studio recording, the two albums illustrate the virtues of having a working band and provide further proof of Isaacs’ stature as a composer, pianist and band leader.

Personnel: Mark Isaacs – piano, James Muller – electric and acoustic guitars; Matt Keegan – soprano and tenor saxophones; Brett Hirst – bass; Tim Firth – drums.

For more information on this CD and Mark Isaacs visit