The sly twist that Trish Clowes has put on E.M. Forster’s celebrated novel, A Room with a View, with her own recording A View with a Room makes for a refreshingly appropriate musical palindrome of sorts. What’s quite brilliant about it all is that Miss Clowes quite brilliantly appropriates the character of the novel, Lucy Honeychurch, who bucks the restrained culture of Edwardian era England [in Mr Forster’s book].
To a certain extent the ‘restrained culture’ may be a rather euphemistic way of describing roles women are “allowed” to play in contemporary music, i.e., while women are “expected” to be “singers” [great ones] in front of a band, while great virtuoso instrumentalists like Trish Clowes are not always given their due. If she hasn’t already broken through the glass ceiling before then with A View with a Room Miss Clowes has shot through it and into the rarefied realm of composing and improvising musicians.
As an improvising musician, Miss Clowes is a distinctly fresh voice that speaks with a magical turn of phrase – equally well, one may add with the tenor saxophone which she articulates with smoky seduction, and the soprano horn which is played with the bell-like, heraldic annunciation of a restless acolyte. Playing from the front Miss Clowes has written marvellous repertoire for this album, and each is ignited here with the spark and flame of extraordinary “songfulness”. Each chart is imbued with simply felt and expressed human feelings – joys and sorrows, both – in human terms.
The apogee may easily be the rhythmically free “Almost” in which Miss Clowes [and her character in the song] albeit always present give the impression of living in a mysterious dream. As the song wraps up our sense of winder is magnified. Miss Clowes alternating between the husky, wispy fumes of the tenor saxophone and the sharp cries of her soprano, entwines her heady harmonics with the elemental wail of the guitar of Chris Montague and the gathering storm of drum rolls and hissing cymbals played by James Maddren amid the restless runs and vaunted arpeggios of the piano by Ross Stanley – all of whom share harmonic duties throughout this music.
There will [or most certainly ought to be] loud talk about Miss Clowes for another important reason – principally the exquisite manner in which she plays with colour. With this music played by My Iris she has emancipated the small ensemble, capitalising on its colours and freeing up its expressive potential. Songs such as “The Ness”, “Amber”, “Morning Song” and the beautifully dreamy “Ayana” are highlights of the eloquent resonance of Miss Clowes’ music.
Tracks: 1: A View with a Room; 2: The Ness; 3: Amber; 4: Morning Song; 5: No Idea; 6: Ayana; 7: Time; 8: Almost
Musicians: Trish Clowes: tenor and soprano saxophones; Chris Montague: guitar; Ross Stanley: piano, Fender Rhodes and Hammond B3 organ; James Maddren: drums
Released – 2022
Label – Greenleaf Music [GRE-CD 1094]
Runtime – 49:26