Sebastian Rochford & Kit Downes: A Short Diary

Rochford, best known as a drummer, wrote some tunes in tribute to his father, delicately interpreted here through his drums and Downes' piano

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Gerard Rochford (1932–2019) was a respected Aberdeen poet and composer, his drummer son, Sebastian, one of 10 children. Father and son were obviously close, for, shortly before he died, he sang his own tune, Even Now I Think Of Her, which ends this set, into his phone and sent it on to Sebastian to hear. After his father’s death, Sebastian forwarded the song to pianist Kit Downes, and together they began to construct this poignant and heartfelt tribute to a much-missed man.

This “short diary (of loss)”, as Sebastian calls it, was recorded in the Rochford family home in Aberdeen. Rochford turned to music after his father’s death, so this set of songs serves as a musical diary of his feelings, “a sonic memory, created with love, out of need for comfort”.

Such a background might suggest a mournful, perhaps dour affair, but its eight short tracks stand out instead as quiet celebrations of a life and of shared family bonds. They also stand out for the strength of their composition, all by Rochford himself, who wrote them at his father’s piano.

The opening This Tune Your Ears Will Never Hear is a hymnal, “like a child calling out into an empty void”, the solo piano on Night Of Quiet and Our Time Is Still studies in silence and contemplation, Ten Of Us a little more forceful, given the family numbers. Gerard Rochford’s own Even Now I Think Of Her concludes the set in romantic reverie.

Throughout, the dynamics of each piece are important, their gentle delivery and intense evocation requiring the subtlest of touches, provided empathetically by an ever thoughtful Downes, Rochford’s drumming often minimal in its presence. The role of label boss Manfred Eicher in mixing this album is rightly noted, his sensitivity crucial to its overall feel.

Rochford might be best known as a drummer, but this quietly fine set proves his worth as a composer. It is an extraordinarily personal document, an eloquent testimony, and one that bears repeated listening. It is also undoubtedly one of ECM’s finest releases of recent years.

Discography
This Tune Your Ears Will Never Hear; Communal Decisions; Night Of Quiet; Love You Grampa; Out Time Is Still; Silver Light; Ten Of Us; Even Now I Think Of Her (36.51)
Rochford (d): Downes (p). Aberdeen, 2020?
ECM Records 4534944