Darren Pickering ‘Small Worlds VOLUME TWO’ is a honeymoon for the marriage of electronic textures and ambient jazz

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Black and white photo of Darren Pickering sitting behind an open baby grand piano with hands clasped, face turned and looking to the left of focus.
Darren Pickering

Recommended tracks: “Reverse”, “Blue Mind”, “La Perla”, “Interlude A”, “Interlude B”

Artists you may like: Aaron Parks, Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band, The Cinematic Orchestra, EST, Floating Points, Jacob Karlzon, Kendrick Scott Oracle, Romain Collin, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Slowly Rolling Camera

Following their acclaimed debut, VOLUME ONE, Darren Pickering Small Worlds  continuestheir investigation of the intersection between cinematic aesthetics and electronic textures within the framework of contemporary jazz. The Ōtautahi (Christchurch, New Zealand) based jazz quartet featuring Mitch Dwyer (guitar), Mitch Thomas (drums), Pete Fleming (bass), and Darren Pickering (piano), perform works composed by pianist Darren Pickering as well as re-imagined versions of select works. VOLUME TWO represents a logical progression in Darren’s artistic and compositional vision. There is a balladic sensibility to the ensemble’s ambient jazz sound, enhanced by the subtle electronic textures of Darren’s ever-expanding collection of modular systems, synths, selected iPad apps and sonic manipulation devices.

A black background with splashes of red, blue, and yellow paint for the Album Cover.
Album cover over art ‘Intersection’ by Harry Harrison

The album opens with “Oneroa Bay”; a short, beautiful acoustic track highlighting Pickering’s distinct penchant for space and melody. Piano and guitar circle each other with intuited swells of momentum and release before being joined by the first electronic elements of the album in the second song, “Reverse.” Perhaps named for the ‘rewind’ type effect featured at the start and end of the track, “Reverse” sounds like falling through time and space to land somewhere safe. Another through-composed journey, “Reverse” starts beautiful but discordant with contributions from the synths until gradually the dissonance falls away and increased consonance and major tonalities meet increased support and structure from the drums. It is fitting that these tracks should set the tone for the album as they capture the essence of Pickering’s compositional sensibilities.

Notable tracks include “Blue Mind” – which features an electronic ostinato and turns Pickering’s balladic riffing into an ambient electro dreamscape – the ethereal “La Perla (for Benjamin)”, and creative Interludes A and B. “Interlude A” starts with a Sabres of Paradise -esque electronic sequence that retreats with a cymbal-induced explosion into the quartet’s acoustic takeover of the sequence before becoming a full on improv sesh – all in under two minutes. Interlude B sees the return of the same sequence, slowed down and maintained throughout. It is as though Interlude A near the beginning ramps up the album while Interlude B toward the end symmetrically winds it down. 

The album features only two re-imaginings of works by other composers. Pickering cites Ryuichi Sakamoto as a notable influence, and his version of Sakamoto’s “Bibo No Aozora” (“Beauty of a Blue Sky”) rings like the re-imagining of a much loved piece. In contrast to the slow melodic original – the influence of which can be heard in Pickering’s compositions – this uptempo arrangement features the quartet at full steam with drums on shuffle and band on jam. Meanwhile, Pickering finds an almost unrecognizable, spacious tune in the simplified shape of Adele’s melody from the popular single, “Chasing Pavements”. In dropping many of the repeated notes present in the original melody, the redefined melody easily comes and goes through Pickering’s ambient jazz setting. 

L to R, Mitch Dwyer (guitar), Mitch Thomas (drums), Pete Fleming (bass), Darren Pickering (piano)

Available from November 23rd 2023 at the RATTLE WEBSITE as a Print-On-Demand CD or Digital Download and on all major download and streaming platforms 

Keep up with Darren Pickering:

Facebook // Instagram // YouTube // SoundCloud // Bandcamp // Website

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