Graham Costello’s Strata: Second Lives

Drummer offers mixture of contemporary jazz, free playing, rock and R&B, accompanied by Fergus McCreadie and others


This album was dedicated by Costello to his great gran Iris and his gran Gwen, neither of whom he met. In his liner note he says his father is of Irish and Scottish heritage and his mother of Burmese Indian descent.

Graham composed and arranged all the tracks. The opening track is a quiet melody followed by Eudaimonia which begins with a piano ostinato and opens up, as Costello’s drums burst through. The tempo increases rapidly as the drums drive harder. Legion begins with a loud rock drum solo. The tenor sax is in free mode here as the piece gathers momentum. All this music except for the final lyrical Second Lives is rhythm driven and Costello is a powerful, driving drummer throughout.

There are hardly any solos, the music being mainly an ensemble performance. Pianist McCreadie does get the occasional solo and he plays the final piece alone apart from the uncredited synthesizer backing. Iris, dedicated to great gran of that name is a slow tempo ballad melodically worked through by the pianist. The Colossus is a three-note vamp with strong tenor sax and heavy bass-drum accents and a repetitive melody running through it.

This music is a curious mixture of contemporary jazz, free, rock and R&B with an emphasis on rock drumming. The free passages often segue into tenor honks first and then quiet, reflective lines. Costello says it is a fully analogue record and “a computer hasn’t touched it”. I did find a Spotify version though, so they must have made a digital version. That said it does sound very different and not nearly so vivid as the vinyl LP which is intense and powerful. The recording on LP is very natural and musical.

It is certainly fresh and original but what the two grannies would have made of it had they lived to hear it, is anybody’s guess.

3a0; Eudaimonia; Legion; Iris; The Colossus; Circularity; Impetu; Snowblind; Arrowhead; Ataraxia; Second Lives (46.44)
Harry Weir (ts); Liam Shortall (tb); Fergus McCreadie (p); Joe Williamson (elg); Mark Hendry (elb); Graham Costello (d, pc). Rak Studio, London 2021.
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