The Voyage of Mary and William
Like Paul Grabowsky, Matt McMahon waited decades before recording his first album of solo piano. You can hear that distillation of ideas: a certain clarity of intent, without compromising the spontaneity that lies at the heart of McMahon’s art, for the 12 pieces are actually free improvisations. Whether you would pick that were you not told is another matter, for somewhere in his subconscious when playing was an awareness of a broader architecture; a shaping of the pieces towards structural cohesion. The sophistication implicit in that is counterbalanced by the almost naïve beauty of the actual melodies and voicings. McMahon also uses space like a blank canvas, so the notes dripped into it are luminous and carry a quiet drama. The title refers to his ancestors who undertook the perilous voyage here from Ireland in 1847, and who brought the love of Irish music that has passed down through the family – vague ghosts of which stalk through McMahon’s creations.