CD Review: Points in Time (Steve Sedergreen)

Points In Time
Steve Sedergreen | Newmarket Records NEW3309.2
Release date: 14 September 2012

CD review by John Hardaker

As irrelevant as the question may be in a world where most music is now cherry-picked from iTunes or Spotify: what is an album? LP records have been around since 1910, reaching their apogee during the 1970s with concept albums such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon or album-length works such as Jethro Tull’s Thick As a Brick.

Steve Sedergreen’s latest collection, Points in Time is just that – a true collection that is at once a retrospective of his remarkable 25-year career and at the same time twelve new recordings. The loop goes back on itself in that almost all tracks are are re-imaginings of pieces written at various points in that career.

The son of Australian jazz-piano titan Bob Sedergreen, Steve is a teacher, mentor and author as well as an enormously respected and internationally heeded pianist. His reflective nature is obvious from the opener ‘Constraints in Construction’ – a shimmering quicksilver solo piano piece improvised as if from the air – which illustrates where Sedergreen is right now. The smart juxtaposition of the next track, 1988’s ‘The Trophy Revisited’ shows how far he has flown since then. A bright latin-funk bounce, now with vocal added, ‘Trophy’ is quite gorgeous, if a little jarring in its sudden stylistic shift back in time from ‘Constraints’.

Sedergreen says:

The tracks on ‘Points in Time’ capture the three main writing periods of my life: that of a young 20 year old music student; then as a little-bit-more-mature 28 year old musician; and finally as a man in his 40s, a jazz improviser focused on deep listening.

Deep listening it is: ‘Constraints in Construction’ and 1995’s ‘Resolution’ (a brooding on eternity over didgeridu) brought to mind a painter such as Picasso or the mystic Paul Klee who, as they advance through their years and their Art seem to pare away all their work’s stylistic scaffolding until we are left with just wonder and simplicity.

Producer Cameron Giles-Webb (who along with Hetty Kate provides vocals on the album) has used a startling 12-piece band on ‘Points In Time’ expanding and contracting this palette as the pieces require. It is nice work: the music never seems to get too puffed-up nor too scrawny; all is beautifully balanced.

‘Prayer For Lost Souls’, ‘Miss Happiness’ and ‘The Pink Glove’ from the ’90s show Sedergreen’s nimble and sharp jazz writing but he is obviously beyond that now. He says,

‘This is the album I had to make. I have entered the most creatively exciting phase of my career thus far and I knew the first step was to reflect on the music I have written and performed over the past two decades.’

One might wonder why this would be the first step, or why Steve Sedergreen felt re-workings of existing material to be in line with this new phase. But artists have their own instincts, their own logic – and usually it is best if we all just go with it. After all, it could just yield up a sparkling work like Points In Time.

Points in Time will be released on Friday 14 September. Sedergreen and his nine-piece band will launch the launch the album on Saturday 15 September at the Central Club Hotel in Richmond.

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