Steve Barry / Judy Bailey
Kiwi-born, Australian-based pianist Steve Barry studied under the Australian-based, Kiwi-born Judy Bailey and they quickly discovered kinship so Elements was recorded as a set of spontaneous pieces, duelling pianos working in tandem to create improvisatory works that hint at twilight moods and surprising shadows.
I first started listening to this when we were in full lockdown – and have returned to it now while binging horror movies. Somehow that context seems appropriate – this was playing out like a score to the horror movie of my life in lockdown (actually it wasn’t at all bad, but, you now, dramatics!)
The piano work here is exceptional – reminiscent of Mike Nock (also a teacher at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music where Barry met Bailey) and also some of Chris Abrahams (The Necks) in his solo moments.
Hypnotic slices of piano sit in and around stirring silences – melodies and moods are conjured in equal moments, with the layering of single notes to build passages where the pianists are calling and responding, question and answer.
It really would sit nicely in a collection of horror movie scores. And if that’s not the biggest compliment than I can give it then I should clarify that is absolutely the intention behind that statement.
Recorded in one set in 2018 – nearly a decade after Bailey and Barry first met – the music flows with the feeling of two souls entwined deep in conversation. They’ve had this ‘chat’ long before the recorder was switched on to capture this moment. They’re having the conversation still, even after this program winds to its end. It’s ever-evolving, mesmerising.
Elements has been one of my essential albums of 2020. Just right for these times, and the best thing is the artists could never have known that at all.
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