Alabaster dePlume has recently released To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol 1 on Lost Map Records in collaboration with Chicago-based avant-jazz label International Anthem and the Total Refreshment Centre in London. I had to check if this was the same Alabaster dePlume who sang a couple of humorous songs at a Union Chapel daytime session I attended. Although there couldn’t realistically be more than one Alabaster dePlume.
For Manchester-born, London-based bandleader, composer, saxophonist, activist and orator Angus Fairbairn, AKA Alabaster dePlume, this is a third 12″ vinyl repress. To Cy & Lee draws together 11 different instrumental tracks, mostly old and two brand new compositions, recorded over eight years in cities around the UK together with a coterie of collaborators, including Dan ‘Danalogue’ Leavers of The Comet Is Coming and Sarathy Korwar. Not only do these numbers span time but the globe too; there are elements of Japanese music, folk and more all weaved into this delightful work.
To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 is in tribute to Cy Lewis and Lee ‘Shredder’ Bowman, whom Alabaster met while working in Manchester for Ordinary Lifestyles, a charity which supports people with disabilities to live in their own homes and enjoy fulfilling lives. I can see why this music could be a positive influence, there’s something joyous and liberating in its melodies, something that helped Cy and Lee. The restorative qualities of this album could help anyone feeling anxious during these troubling times.
The first track on Side A, Visit Croatia, sets the tone: atmospheric and languid. This is not something to add to your Couch to 5K running app: you’d sit down under the nearest tree and doze off. Indeed these tracks do what they are intended to do, help you find a place of calm.
I am particularly drawn to Whisky Story Time which evokes a 20s lounge bar with a cigarette smoke haze, while its burbling sax puts you in a rather pleasantly sozzled state. The more folk-inspired Song of the Foundling leads you into the woods as its breathy flute (for a second I was back in Jethro Tull territory) weaves a magic spell. A chorus of what sounds like woodland folk draws you further in.
The closing track on the album is one of the most enjoyable and has a positive spring in its step. I Hope is a mix of styles. The layers flute and strings build up nicely while a sultry bass anchors it all together.
THIRD VINYL REPRESS, ON SALE NOW: