Review: Saveja – Belinda Woods and Mary Doumany

Sarajeva, April 2012

Review by Andrew Lindsay

Free, open, lulling, gorgeous are the first words that come to mind on hearing this recording. It’s a series of duets for flute and harp, the flute player is Belinda Woods, the harpist is Mary Doumany.

There’s a delight in hearing music that defies a category. Is this jazz, or new chamber music, or…

Frankly, who gives a toss, when we are brought face to face with the sublime and the exquisite?

I missed the Melbourne launch, at Northcote’s Open Studio, though friends who caught it were rapturous. Having already heard the CD I was envious, but not surprised. Days after the launch I bumped into Belinda Woods, who has written the music, and asked her what it was all about.

‘Imagine two Melbourne jazz girls get together and decide to do something different!’ was her response.

Two Melbourne jazz girls. They both have profound groundings in classical and neo-classical traditions, and yet they also share a love of jazz and improvisation. They are both virtuosic players.

I asked Ms Wood how much of the music had been composed before the recording, and how much had been improvised.

‘Does it all sound composed?’ she asked, because to my ears it did. She revealed a magician’s secret.

‘The first track was completely notated. Other pieces exist as charts….’

If that is true, then there are glories of improvisation revealed, and concealed, on this beguiling work. The communication between the players, and the improvisations they achieve together, are marvels. It sounds classical because it’s flute and harp, and rejoices in revealing some vital musical underbelly. And yet  it also reeks of jazz.

It poses the question of what jazz can and cannot be. And finally renders the question obsolete, in the face of its understated beauty, and the bliss and hauntings that it inspires, and revels in. Prepare for awe, and wonder, and delight.

There are exquisite voicings on the flute, and flute players will know how difficult some passages are to achieve, while making them seem so effortless. Ms Doumany’s gentle command of the harp renders the loquacious mute.

It’s surprising that Ms Woods has chosen this as her first release of her own compositions. Over the last decade I’ve heard her play in Bohjass, and Meter Maid, and the errant womens’ marching band The Red Brigade, and Lo-Res, who only play her compositions. It’s a marvellous, quirky, even risky feat, but those who know her playing will recognise some fundamental aspect of the woman in this choice. Her music is lyrical, reflective, and impulsive. A self-portrait achieved for flute and harp?

I play Saveja to a friend, then ask ‘Can I call this jazz?’ She is adamant that I can’t, but I’ve always enjoyed pulling a long bow.  If you’re a lover of new music, virtuosity, and sweet invention, you might want to check these two chicks out…and to my mind, it’s definitely jazz, it’s just a jazz we haven’t heard before. It is both lyrical  and edgy, the players make fantastic choices, and as it ends, you’re waiting for the notes that never come, some vital space is left, and that empty space is full of music that’s not yet played,  the jass that’s yet to come…

To hear the music and buy your own copy:

Saveja is:
Belinda woods – flute and alto flute
Mary Doumany – harp