Keith & Julie Tippett – Couple In Spirit: Sound On Stone

Piano and voice duet frustrated by mortality reaches fruition by overdubbing Julie Tippett on to solo recordings by late husband Keith

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During 2019, discussions began between Keith and Julie Tippett and Discus label boss Martin Archer about recording a new Couple In Spirit album, the first studio recording by said duo since their first studio album appeared in 1988. The studio was booked for spring 2020, but then lockdown intervened and Keith’s health deteriorated before his death that summer.

In time, Julie gradually conceived the idea that the planned recording could be completed, but in a different way, using some of the many live recordings of Keith’s solo concerts that were available. The project finally came to fruition in June 2022, when Julie dug deep into her every reserve of strength and determination to overdub her new multi-tracked vocal and instrumental parts onto selections from three outstanding, solo piano concerts Keith had recorded the previous century.

Other than Michel Legrand’s Windmills of Your Mind, taken at a ghostly pace, all the words and music are by the Tippetts, Keith’s improvisations providing the basis for each song.

Inevitably, given the album’s backstory, one hears much in these words, notably those of Riding, which read as a tribute to Keith himself. At the end of the otherwise wordless Improvisation, one hears Keith’s voice itself, which is heart-stopping. But each piece has its own strengths, notably the celebratory, incantatory It’s Rain And Rain, the delicate A Song, and the ethereal, ghostly Calling From The Roof Top. The title track nods back to the original album, Julie’s gospel choir rising magnificently up against Keith’s thunderous accompaniment.

Throughout, Keith’s piano is dynamic and sometimes theatrical, Julie’s voice as powerful and poised as ever, the extra zithers, music boxes and percussion adding nuance and interest every time they are heard. The wonder, of course, is that the couple together sound simultaneous, despite the fact that on some pieces, they were recorded more than 40 years apart. That said, this is not an easy album to listen to, such is its power and emotion, but it is a beautiful work of re-creation, and love.

Discography
(3) Look … See; (1) Riding; It’s Rain And Rain; A Song; (3) Calling From The Roof Top; (2) Windmills Of Your Mind; Improvisation; (1) Sound On Stone (56.00)
Keith Tippett (p, zither, music boxes, v, pc). (1) The Netherlands, April 1979. (2) Bologna, 26 January 1991. (3) Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, 1995/96. Julie Tippetts (v, zither, music boxes, pc). Sheffield, June 2022 and Bristol, October 2022.
Discus 143CD