Monday, 8 December 2008

Blink featuring Merit Stephanos

The Leverhulme Trust awards fellowships on the basis of originality, judgment, appropriate risk and the transcendence of barriers between traditional disciplines. It will come as no surprise to those who attended Blink’s latest performance at the Vortex that pianist and composer, Alcyona Mick received this award to help fund her debut album, "Around the Sun". Featuring Merit Stephanos on vocals, Blink developed their already distinctive sound by drawing inspiration from previously untapped sources.

The first set consisted in material from the trio’s eponymously named album. The absence of a bassist both necessitates a degree of harmonic responsibility when playing within a structure and creates an intriguing space for exploration when playing free. These qualities attained a degree of excellence during "Hall C", a dark, contemplative composition by Blink’s saxophonist, Robin Fincker. Mick’s simple and engaging bass part anchored the group. Once rooted, she explored some of the more abstract implications of the melody. She swirled across the entire range of the piano with phrasing evocative of Messiaen or Rachmaninoff. Fincker worked a poignant atonality into the main melody before launching into expansive melodic lines within the key signature and echoing them with ‘outside’ responses. As though propelled by this development drummer, Paul Clarvis broke into a characteristically strong, driving rock stride that saw the piece out.

Merit Stephanos infused the second set with a potent Arabian scent which, during the endearingly titled, "I’m his Darling, he’s my Darling", brought the group to the zenith of their inter-genre philosophy. It began as a hard-bop ballad with Mick delivering spacious, Monk-like voicing over terse cymbal effects and rumblings by Clarvis. Stephanos’ vocals distinguished themselves with their Middle Eastern intonation, elegance and emotional intimacy. While Mick and Clarvis built to a cinematic depth, Stephanos sang the lyrics with a clear and resounding heart, producing an utterly compelling performance. Fincker contributed with concise abstract calls before weaving Arabic inflections into the fabric of his fundamentally post-bop solo.

In years to come, Blink, together with a handful of other groups, will be adjudged to define a particular breed of early twenty-first century music which draws influence from multiple musical categories. Presently, the music is indefinable. We are left simply to bask in the glow of its romantic mysticism.

No comments: