Noah Stoneman – a young pianist from North London – certainly moves in high circles, with pianist Kit Downes acting as mentor and producer of this debut album, saxophonist Alex Hitchcock a regular performance partner and trumpeter Mark Kavuma an acknowledged help and support.
For Stoneman, this record is about finding moments of solace and quiet amongst the noise, hoping that “people can find some sense of quiet reflection or poetry in listening to it, that they embrace the ebbs and flows and trial and error of everyday life that the music speaks to”.
That might be his wish, but from the very off, it is apparent that this music is far too interesting and provocative to provide mere solace, let alone any quiet. The incisive, catchy opener sets him up against the quietly insistent drums of Luca Caruso, a pairing that forces you to listen to the immaculate interplay between them and the shifts of speed and tone that flow through the piece.
The uptempo Borders opens with a sturdy drum roll before its convoluted melody makes its agitated entrance, Stoneman giving equal weight to all the notes of a chord so that you can hear the piece in depth. Even the calmer Evanesce demands concentration rather than supplies any solace, while the aptly titled Mourndoom is claustrophobic in its intensity.
And so it continues, each piece – all composed by Stoneman – requiring your detailed attention to every note and chord, and particularly to his fine touch: he is rarely demonstrative but always apposite. Drummer Caruso is a mainstay, and on his rare solos, bass player Will Sach is equally commanding.
For all its surface beauty, this is actually quite complex music, and all the better for it. Stoneman might only be 22, but he plays like a mature musician with a lifetime’s experience behind him. What a phenomenal debut, what a fine album.
Tomas And Tereza; Borders; Evanesce; Calm; Mourndoom; Band Of Brothers; Postlude; Strands; Major (42.27)
Stoneman (p); Will Sach (b); Luca Caruso (d). London, 7–8 October 2021.
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 657