Mark Pringle ‘A Moveable Feast’ (Stoney Lane) 4/5

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway.

mark-pringle“A Moveable Feast” is the debut album from 24 year old pianist/composer Mark Pringle. Featuring his eclectic 12-piece ensemble it is inspired by such diverse influences as Oliver Messiaen, Ernest Hemingway and Django Bates. Released on the innovative Birmingham based label Stoney Lane Records, it is an adventurous instrumental journey of thoroughly original music, utilising a wealth of ideas from the composer’s opulent imagination, brilliantly creating picturesque soundscapes with brass, strings, drums, bass and piano. The music is distinctly shaped by Pringle’s time living in Paris, where he studied for four months at the Conservatoire National Superieur and took part in projects with Joachim Kuhn and Larry Grenadier. Pringle graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire with First Class Honours in 2015, winning the Jazz Department Performance Prize, the Dean’s award for Exceptional Achievement, and the Principal’s Prize for outstanding contribution to the life of the Conservatoire. After learning classical piano from an early age, Pringle fell in love with the music of Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson and in 2010, at the age of 19, he recorded the piano duo album “This Is” with renowned pianist and former teacher John Law. From this point on Pringle appears to have never looked back, working tirelessly towards this point in time, his debut release on Stoney Lane Records, and beyond.

“A Moveable Feast” features eight of Pringle’s striking compositions, drawing on themes of nature, wildlife, literature, the chaos of cities, and the lives of people who inhabit them. The 12-piece band consists of the pianist’s core trio, with drummer Euan Palmer and bassist James Banner, along with an outstanding horn section featuring Percy Pursglove, Chris Young, Don Searjeant and Alicia Gardener-Trejo. Ben Lee provides electric guitar and the stirring, multifaceted strings are played by Christine Cornwell, Sarah Farmer, Megan Jowett and Lucy French. The album opens with “A Real Bombshell”, (Messiaen’s reaction on first seeing a score of Debussy), and begins with a strong rhythm section as the tune meanders its way into dark passages featuring strings and horns. Pringle uses themes and motifs with a compelling style and energy, allowing for some powerful soloing and a deep underlying uneasiness that permeates its way through this piece. “And That’s Ok” may be short and sweet but it is a shining example of how sumptuously beautiful brass can sound. On “Happy Plants (Part 1)” we have an awakening, a slow stretching of plantation with limbs climbing towards the light of “Happy Plants (Part 2).” Horns and drums combine to create a party like atmosphere with a Jamaican feel that spreads the foliage love and sways with pleasure. The brooding “Hasha’s Theme” is playful whilst still being earnest. The disjointed intro leads into a brass-led melody, reminiscent perhaps of Colin Towns’ Mask Orchestra. The arrangements are stunning. There is a deep, dark, lyrical beauty to this as the feel lightens somewhat with a crisp sax solo lifting the somber mood. The underpinning drums and bass are superb, with the plucked strings and tender piano rounding off the tune in style. “Ode To The Trees” is a veritable feast for the ears. Imagine if Vaughan Williams had gone into the forest to sample the wild mushrooms, and whilst writing his Symphony Number 1, Gustav Mahler had discovered jazz, this might have been the outcome. Beneath a light, shimmering backdrop of beautifully sparse piano, a slightly sinister fairy-tale comes to life with strange little creatures dancing out from the undergrowth, smiling, laughing, beckoning. As the piano chords gain momentum, the creatures get louder and more daring, overpowering the tune with their intense jibber-jabber. A brilliant piece of music. The oblique nature of the music continues with “The Writer”, an oddly fragmented track that flirts with obscure sounds and experimentation, taking the listener on a tormented journey into the mind’s scarier places. “Through The Grate” is softer… a flickering light that is slowly fading, taking with it the unanswered questions that this album sometimes asks, leaving behind it a quiet tranquility, a lone breath in the darkness.

“A Moveable Feast” is an intriguing album, one which heralds a new voice in jazz. Mark Pringle has put together a recording that is both expressive and innovative, with his compositions exuding character. His intelligent use of strings and horns is a key ingredient in the creation of a musical vision that is quirky, yet positively original. Touring extensively throughout the UK with both his trio and dynamic twelve-piece band this autumn, Pringle launched “A Moveable Feast” with performances at The Manchester Jazz Festival and the BBC 3 broadcast at The Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall. Catch him while you still can at the following venues:

• Tues 1st September – Birmingham – The Spotted Dog (Large Ensemble)
• Fri 4th September – Birmingham – The Red Lion (Trio)
• Sun 6th September – London – Lume Presents @ The Vortex (Large Ensemble)
• Tues 8th September – Manchester – Matt and Phred’s (Trio)
• Weds 9th September – Glasgow – The Butterfly and the Pig (Quartet feat. Adam Jackson)
• Thurs 10th September – Edinburgh– Jazz Bar (Trio)
• Fri 11th September – Newcastle – Jazz Cafe (Trio)
• Sunday 13th September – Oxford – Wine Cafe (Trio)
• Weds 16th September – Cardiff – Dempsey’s (Trio)
• Fri 18th September – Birmingham – Symphony Hall (Trio)
• Sat 19th September – Wells, Somerset – Wookey Hole Club (Trio)
• Sun 20th September – London – The Green Note (Trio)
• Fri 25th September – London – Southbank Centre (Quintet feat. Joe Wright + Lluis Mather)
• Sun 27th September – London – Omnibus, Clapham (Quintet feat. Joe Wright + Lluis Mather)
• Mon 28th September – London – The Oxford (Quintet feat. Joe Wright + Lluis Mather)

Mike Gates