Review:  The Scenery of Life Unfolding
by Steve Robertson
The Portland Observer
July 2014

Any successful musical duet performance, especially when it involves improvisation, is a minor miracle.

Consider what is involved: Two platers must align their minds to become one, not only to think of what note to plat next, but to anticipate what the other is about to do, and how to make the two notes sound good together.

That’s worth thinking about as you savour The Scenery of Life Unfolding, a duet CD between bassist Shannon Birchall and pianist Jeremy Woolhouse.  Recorded last year in Melbourne, this collection of ten new Woolhouse compositions is more than just a template for how to make two stringed instruments sound not just good, but inspired together.  It is proof positive that young Australian artists are absorbing the music of the past, then adding their own unique perspectives to create something quite fresh and often lovely.

The exotic yet somewhat mournful language of the tango (and its predecessor the habanera) informs at least three of the tracks.  Bubbles Rising opens with an Argentinean statement before evolving into a pretty new melodic line, Virtual Affection captures the listener with an alluring mystery, and Tears for the Summer suggests a magical meeting of Eric Satie and Keith Jarrett in a Buenos Aires square on a sun-splashed afternoon.

Themes of rich yet never cloying sweetness emerge with some gorgeous unison playing in Lost Friends, the gentle ‘nocturne meets the blues’ of Optimist’s Folly, and the pensive, hymn-like lines of the title track.

In an age when the ‘power ballads’ of TV singing contests and manufactured pop ditties on commercial radio invade our earlobes with alarming regularity, it is refreshing indeed to find new Australian instrumental music so rich and so satisfying.

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