Elly Hoyt – The Composers’ Voice: Female stories told from a female perspective

[REVIEW]

Elly Hoyt – The Composers’ Voice:

Celebrating Australian Women Composers

The central theme of this album is apparent before we’ve heard a single note and at no point after are we tempted to forget. Elly Hoyt has harnessed the power and beauty of music, not simply for its own sake, but to give voice to those we have heard far too little from. Her craft is the means and shining a light onto her underrepresented creative mentors and contemporaries becomes the end, inadvertently imbuing the music with an added potency.

These are female stories told from a female perspective. Themes like dealing with adversity and prejudice (Georgia Weber’s ‘Here we go’), determination (Gian Slater’s ‘Engines on’) and at times expressions of anger and frustration (Shannon Barnett’s ‘Break the system’) have their origins in the direct personal experiences of the composers whilst offering us an insight into the challenges women are often faced with. [Louise Denson’s] piece ‘Hear Me’ seems to perfectly distil the overarching message of this album and the final words– “You’ve got to be braver and stronger” –Hoyt leaves us with in the uplifting closer, [Tamara Murphy’s] ‘Braver’, are equally poignant.

There is a focus on simplicity and beauty in this collection of songs (all written by women composers:Slater, Weber, Denson,Barnett, Murphy, but also Andrea Keller, Sonja Horbelt and Hoyt herself.) The pieces are well arranged, utilising different combinations of instrumentation to enhance and evoke the character of each one. Hoyt has the freedom and flexibility typical of an accomplished jazz singer, but her range of timbral expression also hints at influences from pop and soul singers. Her somewhat unwieldy style is distinct from the pristine precision of many other contemporary jazz singers, giving her an exciting and unpredictable quality.

Andrea Keller is Hoyt’s closest companion throughout this collection of songs. She is truly a masterful accompanist, weaving playful melodies through the folky harmonies whilst remaining selflessly supportive. Matt Jodrell is clear and assured, Julien Wilson’s serpent-like lines twist and turn and James Macaulay is dark and poetic. The rhythm section, James Mclean and Sam Anning, give the music exactly what it needs without compromising their unique musical voices.

It is exciting and encouraging as an Australian of any gender to see a place being created for projects of this nature in our society, even if the impetus is still coming largely from other females. Projects like this are both a sign and a contributor to positive change, and by engaging with and celebrating these initiatives we too are given an opportunity to play a small part. In addition to the contextual significance of this project, it is a wonderfully curated representation of Australia’s finest composers and improvisors.

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