Roddy Ellias - Moon Over Lake

Roddy Ellias - Moon Over Lake



Music by Canadian jazz guitarist Roddy Ellias has been described as “unapologetically beautiful” (All About Jazz) and “both startling and inspiring” (Just Jazz Guitar).

A passionate improviser and prolific composer, Ellias is an artist whose musical journey has taken him from his early roots in pop and R&B bands and classical music, to the improvised world of jazz, through African and other world beats all the way to writing an opera.

"Moon over lake" is an album of solo acoustic steel strung guitar, original compositions and improvisations on the theme of nature. There is often a feeling of free improvisation but the music always sounds thoughtful and never random.

The sound is vivid and intimate with wide dynamic range and a natural warm reverb, the only downside being some prominent string/fret noises which are intrusive in the opening "Prelude" but less so in other tracks.

"Butterfly dreams" is nicely abstract with tense harmonies and no repetition. "Chant" is riff based and cunningly syncopated - the clever counterpoint is tricky but there's no sign of double tracking. This reminded me of Ralph Towner's superb "Timeline" album with its imaginative harmonies. Interest never sags over almost 5 minutes.

"Interlude" is all ringing harmonics, calls and responses - short and spontaneous. "Monkey business" sets up a percussive groove and dances away enthusiastically with melodies and harmonies reminiscent of Gerald Garcia's "Celtic airs" - quite an achievement for an improvised piece.

“Little bird's first flight” explores the rich sonorities of Roddy's guitar through six captivating minutes which tread the fine line between improvisation and composition, then “Rainbow Dance” explores the same chordal territory in a more composed, contrapuntal and rhythmic way.

The title track is a two part invention in free tempo whilst “Flower” has a fine contrast between a “pizzicato” beginning and a singing theme.

The nature of free improvisation requires an element of hesitancy and embracing the un-foreseen, which this album certainly achieves. That can make it difficult to find “hooks” to engage the casual listener. The listening experience is very personal – and also hard to put into words. I enjoyed Roddy's playing very much and the mood overall is meditative, not too tense but not bland either. Why not give it a try by listening on Bandcamp?

© Stephen Godsall


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