MIke De Souza (g), Alec Harper (ts), Rupert Cox (p, keyb), Huw V. Williams (b), Jay Davis (d)
Bar code: 8427328436588
At the end of 2019, having self-released my debut album ‘Slow Burn’ and having completed a tour of the UK with my trio, I took some time to regroup and think about the next steps for my music. During this time I was fortunate to be keeping busy working as a side-man for other artists and groups, which on the flip side meant that plans for my own music got naturally pushed down the list of priorities.
Come Spring 2020, we all find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, all our gigs are cancelled and many of us unexpectedly find ourselves with a lot of time on our hands. Though this was clearly a difficult time for us all, I feel grateful that my circumstances allowed for artistic silverlinings to emerge from this period of relative isolation. The music for Chrysalis was born out of this unique period where I was able to explore new techniques and concepts in my guitar playing, as well as immerse myself deeply inmy compositional process, for hours each day, without distraction.
My partner Diana, helped me to name some of the tracks on this album, whilst we listened to the digital playback of the composition scores at home, before a single note had been rehearsed with the band. She suggested the name Chrysalis for one of the tracks, which resonated with me since the overarching structure of that piece seemed to clearly reflectthe 3 stages in the lifecycle of a butterfly, as well as the repeating 8-bar melodic theme with variations taking place around it having a meditative quality evoking imagery of the chrysalis state. It was only later I had the realisation that this word would be the perfect title for the album, as it mirrored the process I underwent to compose this set of music.
To help bring this set ofmusic to life, I called upon my long standing collaborators, Jay Davis and Huw V. Williams to play drums and bass respectively. Both had featured on my previous recordings, and through countless hours playing and performing together we had developed a strong musical connection that I was keen to feature at the heart of this project. Huw brings an intensity and fearlessness to his improvising which I find both exciting and inspiring. Like wise, Jay always seems to strike the perfect balance between subtlety and virtuosity. Together, they make a powerful rhythm section that I feel grateful to have performing this set of music.
Since an important element of this music was its use of multiple melodic layers as well as a juxtaposition between acoustic and electronic sounds, I needed an improvising pianist who also had experience in crafting synthesised sounds. Rupert Cox, who’s musicianship I have admired since our paths first crossed as students at the Royal Academy of Music, was a clear choice for this role. His distinctive improvisational style and sensitivity has contributed so much to this album, and his hypnotic piano solo on Clementine Clouds has been a personal highlight for me, and is part of the reason why I selected this as the opening track for the album.
To complete the line-up I invited tenor Saxophonist Alec Harper, who’s playing I had admired for many years due to his sound, melodic personality, and his breadth of experience as an improviser within the jazz tradition and beyond. Though our playing relationship has primarily been born out of this particular collaboration, I feel that throughout the making of this record, we have developed a musical chemistry that has been both fulfilling and educational to me, which I believe can be glimpsed at during Alec’s improvised solo towards the end of the track ‘Gently Wake’.
I hope that whoever is reading this can be taken on a journey through the range of moods and musical landscapes on this record, as well as bearing witness to, and finding meaning in the uniquely improvised moments that were captured between the five of us in the studio on that day. On a more personal note, my compositions and improvisations are the yield of a long labour of love since the age of 12, and as such, I hope for them to inspire feelings of wonder, excitement and hopefulness for the listener, as the music that I cherish has done forme over the years.
—Mike De Souza