Greg Foat ‘Symphonie Pacifique’ 2LP/CD (Strut) 4/5

‘Symphonie Pacifique’ is the new album from UK jazz pianist Greg Foat released through Strut Records.

Through many of my UK Vibe reviews, I’ve quite often observed in awe the ability of various artists to create in a variety of different styles and contexts, and I’ve marvelled at their prolific nature with being able to release music in quick succession. But there’s prolific, and then there’s Greg Foat…

Just looking at Foat’s releases over the past 12 months is staggering: with a series of releases attributed to the usual label home of Athens of the North, ‘Linkwood & Foat’ paired the pianist with house music producer, Linkwood, for their self-titled record released in February of this year; November 2019 saw the release of Foat’s ‘The Dreaming Jewels’ this time partnering Foat with saxophonist Binker Golding, Malcolm Catto on drums and Hugh Harris on guitar; ‘Photosynthesis’ two months prior once again features Foat embracing the art of collaboration, sharing top-billing with James Thorpe. Labelling Foat’s talents as simply ‘prolific’ really only seems to touch the surface of what drives him to create in the manner he does.

And new album ‘Symphonie Pacifique’ is another perfect demonstration of those talents with a fantastic all-star line-up, many of which serve as long-standing Foat collaborators. Of the outstanding musicians assembled, the legendary Art Themen provides sax throughout the album, rekindling his chemistry with Foat from ‘The Mage’ (2019); Moses Boyd and Clark Tracey share drumming duties evenly with Boyd tackling the first half before handing over to Tracey for the latter portion, while very frequent Foat collaborator, Trevor Walker, whose collaborations with Foat date as far back as 2011’s ‘Dark Is The Sun’, appears on trumpet as well.

‘Symphonie Pacifique’ seems to serve as this wonderful culmination of the projects that came before – packed with creativity and brimming with an abundance of ideas that make the album a real joy to listen to. ‘Anticipation’ marks a real highlight – propelled by this ethereal soundscape and incredible sax work, there’s perhaps more than a little inspiration sought from some of the electronica-based collaborations mentioned earlier. The album’s title track is another number that warrants special mention as, again, this almost genre-mash merging of Foat’s piano taking centre stage and pit against this dreamy choral backdrop that in each case really adds up to something very special.

Strut Records have long been revered for their wonderful long lost reissues as they are for their stunning contemporary discoveries which this year already include the upcoming album from Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids (‘Shaman!’) as well as the debut album from afro futurists ONIPA, ‘We No Be Machine’. ‘Symphonie Pacifique’ proves to be a real win for Strut who are now able to boast housing one of the most accomplished projects from the ever-evolving, and ever-prolific, Greg Foat.

Imran Mirza