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Friday, February 26, 2021

Corey Mwamba's vibes

 By Stef Gijssels

In November, colleague Nick Ostrum reviewed the trio of Cath Roberts, Corey Mwamba and Olie Brice "Trio Set At LUME".  The vibraphonist from Derby in the UK has been quite active last year, despite the clear message on his website: "I retired from all public performances in March 2019. All gig offers will be refused", and this for a variety of reasons, none of them related to Covid. Despite this, he stays active, and even very active. 

Corey Mwamba is the current presenter of Freeness, a weekly programme on BBC Radio 3, focused on on adventurous jazz and improvised music. I can only recommend that you check this one out. Readers of our blog will surely appreciate the programme. He is also the lead administrator of Out Front!, an organisation promoting and producing 'new music'. Mwamba was also the artistic director of Derby Jazz from 2016 to 2020. Mwamba was granted an AHRC studentship for a Master of Research degree in Music at Keele University, for which he was awarded a distinction in 2014. Through this research, Corey developed new dark art, which is a notational and theoretical music system that takes early European medieval music practice as a starting point to create modern music. He was awarded a doctorate in Jazz Research at Birmingham City University. I also recommend to have a look at the research page on his website for those of you interested in the more theoretical approach to his music. 

Rachel Musson & Corey Mwamba - What We Said When We Met (Takuroku, 2020)

We reviewed British saxophonist Rachel Musson before, and she figured on colleague Lee Rice Epstein's end of year list with her album "I Went This Way". On "What We Said When We Met", Musson and Mwamba perform a duo through zoom. Both musicians performed together from 2013 till 2019 when the vibraphonist decided to no longer to perform in public. And now with the pandemic, creative solutions were required. Despite the limited recording technology, the quality of the sound is excellent, very intimate and close. Musson's tone is direct, expressive and stripped of anything superfluous, and her sometimes raw yet sensitive tone matches well with the bright open sound of Mwamba's vibes. The latter is not a percussive player, but rather a weaver of sounds, managing a sonic fluidity that is unusual with the instrument. The collective efforts is gentle, versatile and they appear to be very close listeners. 

Nick Malcolm & Corey Mwamba - Chat (Green Eyes, 2020)

We find Mwamba back on this equally intimate duet with British trumpet player Nick Malcolm. Interestingly enough, as on the duet with Musson, this album's title also evocates a conversation. And it is.  Like Musson and Mwamba, Malcolm has many musical projects he's working on, including his own record label, for all of them possibly the result of creativity and possibly also necessity. I am not familiar with his other projects, but this one is a winner. The music 'shines', it has a wonderful lively dynamic, with a great positive undertone. Even a track like 'Down The Bell', that starts quite subdued, is rapidly brought to more energetic levels, not of speed but of intensity and musical joy. Both instruments find a common voice in the warm clarity of their tone, making their music sound like a cheerfully rippling river. It's not spectacular, it's not boundary-shifting, but it's of high quality and wonderfully human. 

Malcolm himself writes: "I feel it is a beautiful document of a musical and personal friendship, with elements of combat, playfulness and celebration, all emanating from a deep mutual listening, and from brotherly love and respect." This underlying understanding and friendship clearly determines the quality of the interaction and of the music. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp