Andrea Keller has long had a keen instinct for matching mood with structure, mood with duration. But the Melbourne pianist/composer has never aligned these elements with such precision as on this extraordinary album, which fully integrates a string quartet into her usual piano/trumpet/tenor saxophone/drums band.
The compositions are mostly short – almost fragmentary – and rather disquieting, the strings blurring melodic outlines much as a mist does lights. Yet every piece instantly draws you in, such is the conceptual clarity, the immediacy of the playing and the way the sonic perspective shifts, like points of view in some novels. There is no idle soloing here. Trumpeter Eugene Ball and saxophonist Ian Whitehurst are used to add specific colours as well as spontaneity, as are Keller’s gorgeous piano, Joe Talia’s drums and the almost mystical strings.
On April 12 Keller performs her From Ether project (using Chris Hadfield’s space station images) with guitarist Geoff Hughes and trumpeter Phil Slater (Powerhouse Museum, afternoon), and plays a solo set at the Sound Lounge that night.