We Could Fix Everything
After my very eclectic "Atlantic skies" album in 2020 I decided to concentrate on jazz idioms this time and build in space for improvisation and syncopation. The tunes explore both musical and personal ideas which are described in the notes for each track.
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STEPHEN GODSALL - WE COULD FIX EVERYTHING
2) We Could Fix Everything
3) Expresso Bongo
4) Mr Thomas
5) It Will Get Brighter
6) Five Rivers Met On A Plain
7) Don’t Look Down
9) Poetic Off-license
10) The Last Hillwalker
11) The New Me
All tracks composed by Stephen Godsall
recorded in 9 Home Studios
"At the start of 2021 I had an idea to make the best of "lockdown" by beginning remote recordings with some of my favourite musicians - including some I had yet to meet. Mike Hall was enthusiastic about the idea and brought Steve Waterman on board; this was the core of my "dream band". We tried out several singers and for the 4 songs on this album Sara Harris turned out to have the perfect voice. Thanks to all the brilliant musicians who joined me on this venture!"
Sara Harris, vocals
Steve Waterman, trumpet, flugelhorn
Sarah Bolter, flute
Mike Hall, tenor and soprano saxes, bass clarinet, wind synth
Diane Annear, piccolo
Joe Limburn, double bass
Sarah Abbott, baritone sax
Ian Ellis, tenor sax on track 11
Andrew Godsall, drums
Stephen Godsall, guitars, bass guitar, ukulele, organ, percussion, compositions
Cover photo by Ria Sopala
all rights reserved
"Stephen Godsall est un compositeur producteur anglais multi instrumentiste. Aussi à l’aise avec une guitare qu’avec une basse, un ukulélé, un orgue ou des percussions. Instruments qu’il pratique sur cet album conçu en temps de pandémie et dont les nombreux intervenants ont enregistré leur partie à la maison.
Présenté sous une pochette édifiante, une image apocalyptique réunissant le feu et l’eau, elle est inspirée par les crises climatiques. Mais Stephen Godsall veut que sa musique soit aussi une riposte à ces évènements. Ses compositions, parfois très courtes, nous invitent dans un jazz-fusion, quelquefois improvisé, relativement soft. La limpidité, la fluidité des morceaux est une constante. Le baroque, le progressif, voire une touche celtique ou funky rendent l’ensemble assez complexe, mais qui se maintient toutefois dans un style délicat.
Au niveau des solistes intervenants j’ai particulièrement apprécié Steve Waterman à la trompette et au bugle ainsi que Mike Hall au saxophone ténor et soprano. Deux remarquables musiciens qui sont aussi enseignants. Petite surprise dans ce jazz qu’on aurait pu imaginer simplement instrumental, la présence de la chanteuse Sara Harris sur quatre titres. Les morceaux sont complétés par la présence d’une flute, d’un piccolo, d’une contrebasse, d’un batteur, d’un sax baryton… Un sax ténor se rajoutant sur la plage finale.
Un album honorable, qui convaincra un public appréciant le jazz issu de la longue tradition et qui tend à le perpétrer avec respect."
Claudy Jalet, JazzMania, le 28 juin 2022
"Stephen Godsall (guitar, bass, ukulele, organ, percussion); Sara Harris (vocals); Steve Waterman (trumpet, flugelhorn); Mike Hall (tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet, wind synth); Sarah Abbot (baritone sax); Sarah Bolter (flute); Dianne Annear (piccolo); Joe Limburn (double bass); Andrew Godsall (drums); Ian Ellis (tenor sax on ‘The New Me.’)
Recorded 2020/2021 at various home studios
Don’t let the album title or its apocalyptic cover photo - showing a blazing forest and children wading through flood water - give you the impression that this album is full of depressing music about climate change. The issue of climate change is covered, but it’s just one of a number of subjects explored on this record - and much of the music is uplifting.
Stephen Godsall is a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist British musician, arranger and producer, whose music is often described a ‘post fusion,’ encompassing jazz, rock, pop, roots, classical and experimental. The eclectic nature of his work can be discerned by the artists listed on his website who are described as being influential, including, John Cage, Steely Dan, Beethoven, Duke Ellington, Hank Williams and The Beatles. Godsall plays in an eight-piece band; a sax/guitar quintet, and various duo and trio line-ups. He’s also composed musical homages to Jimi Hendrix and Ralph Vaughn Williams.
Like many albums released over the past year or so, it was recorded under lockdown conditions, which meant that the musicians recorded their parts at home. Each musician received a guide track with time changes, bass line, and rough parts played on a keyboard or guitar. After all the musicians’ parts were recorded, bass, drums and guitar were layered on top. It sounds like an odd way to create music, but the results speak for themselves – you feel that you’re listening to a group of musicians playing together in the same room rather than some Frankenstein creation made up of different parts. The eleven tracks were all composed by Godsall, with several of them short (around one-minute in length) improvisations. Wind instruments dominate the musical landscapes Godsall has created, producing a vibrant mix of tones, moods, textures and harmonies.
The first tune, ‘Postcard’ is a 41-second track described as an evocation of Corfe Castle in Dorset. Godsall plays delicate, harp-like arpeggios on a ukulele, accompanied by the haunting sound of a flute. The title track features Sarah Harris on vocals. Apparently, around a handful of vocalists were tried out before Harris got the gig, and she is an excellent choice, with good power and range. ‘We Could Fix Everything’ is one of those songs were the mood of the music clashes with the message of the lyrics. The song tackles climate change and how humans are destroying the planet ‘We’re chasing false prophets…money talks, the weather screams.’ However, the mid-tempo track has an upbeat quality to it, with a meaty reggae-like bass line, stabbing horn lines, piccolo and flutes that float in and out, and a storming tenor sax solo by Mike Hall. Godsall does some fast picking on his guitar solo and the track concludes with a Steve Waterman’s fine trumpet solo which ends in a burst of flurries.
‘Expresso Bongo’ is a quirky track named after the musical and film of the same name (the latter starred Laurence Harvey, and Cliff Richard and the Shadows). Set in late 50s Soho in London, the work is a satire of the music industry. Godsall says he wanted the track to evoke that era and he succeeds – you could imagine someone like John Dankworth composing this piece, and listening to it in a smoky Soho joint. The playful theme is played by wah-wah trumpet and sax, accompanied by guitar and clattering bongos. Godsall clearly enjoyed playing around with the time signatures on this track, which are all over the place, but the music never loses its focus – or its fun.
‘Mr Thomas’ is a one-minute piece, inspired by Dylan Thomas, with a mournful trumpet duetting with a strummed ukulele. ‘It Will Get Better’ is a gorgeous ballad about yearning and optimism, and features a moving vocal performance by Harris. The arrangement on this track is terrific, for example, listen to the motif, which first appears at around the 45-second mark, where trumpet, flute and sax harmonize beautifully in a short ascending section. Later on, Waterman plays a tremendous trumpet solo, his horn singing and soaring – his phrasing and dexterity reminded me of Freddie Hubbard. Hall follows with a fine solo on tenor sax and Sarah Bolter plays a delicate flute solo. It’s a superb performance by everyone.
‘Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain’ is inspired by the 2016 Barney Morris novel of the same name, which is the story of a car accident set in Salisbury. The slow, atmospheric track is dominated by flute, bass clarinet and synthesisers (guitar and soprano sax also make an appearance), and it’s both calming and unsettling, with sounds exploding and decaying, or instruments intermingling and then going their separate ways. ‘Don’t Look Down’ has a mischievous quality to its sound and sees Harris delivering a sassy vocal performance and a lively dialogue between vocals and horns. Throw in a wah-wah guitar solo and more searing trumpet from Waterman, and you have a very satisfying number. ‘Eryri’ ( Welsh for Snowdonia) is a short, gentle piece played by a ukulele/sax duet.
‘Poetic Off-Licence’ is a tribute to poet/stand-up comedian Hovis Presley, known as the ‘Bard of Bolton’, who died aged just 44 in 2005. The title is taken from the name of his 1993 anthology of verse. The song’s swaggering theme, played by the horns, gives the song a humorous quality (which is most fitting), and once again, Waterman plays more exquisite trumpet and Hall shines on tenor sax. ‘The Last Hillwalker’ opens with the plangent sound of a trumpet and a delicately picked guitar, and its mournful theme chimes well with the subject of the extinction of the human race. Waterman plays superbly on what is effectively a six-minute long trumpet solo, with some guitar accompaniment. The album closes with, ‘The New Me,’ with Harris delivering another good vocal performance on this mid-tempo track that has a Samba feel.
As I said at the beginning, never judge an album by its cover. I really enjoyed this record. Yes, it explores some serious (some might say, depressing themes), but there is also a lot to lift the spirits, not least the performances of all the musicians. And although Stephen Godsall’s name is on the album, he has pushed other musicians to the front of this record and been happy to remain mostly in the background. The arrangements are imaginative too, and I loved the way the various instruments interacted and created different colours – it’s hard to believe this album was created remotely. If you like jazz with an interesting twist, then do give this album listen, and like me, you might be delighted by what you hear."
Reviewed by George Cole, jazzviews.net
"Stephen Godsall has a growing reputation as composer/instrumentalist; his 2020 album “Atlantic Skies” was described as “inordinately enjoyable” with “beautiful resonating depths” by Sammy Stein in JazzViews Here he plays electric and acoustic nylon strung guitars and three tracks feature subtle use of jazz ukulele, sounding like a highly strung guitar with Celtic heritage The album fizzes with ideas; “Poetic off-licence” is a homage to the bard of Bolton, Hovis Presley “We could fix everything” is a fiery riposte to the climate crisis with haunting piccolo recalling Ennio Morricone “Don’t look down” urges listeners to “forget the future”."
Jazziz.com, October 21, 2021
"Das Album ist voll von Musik, die sich zu einem gut durchdachten dramaturgischen Ganzen zusammenfügt. Die Kompositionen sind voll von verschiedenen Klangfarben und geräumigen Soloparts. Ein weiterer Pluspunkt des Albums ist das stimmliche Potenzial von Sara Harris. Die Künstlerin arbeitet mit einer breiten Stimmskala und passt ihre Register gekonnt dem Charakter der Stücke an."
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