Having tackled Shakespeare and assorted poets on their last two releases, the Leamington Spa quintet comprising Wes Finch on guitars and vocals, drummer Ben Haines, Nizlopi’s John Parkes on upright bass and Katrin Gilbert and Jools Street on viola and violin, respectively, now turn their attention to the work of Coventry-born poet Philip Larkin and, as the title suggests, with five of the numbers taken from a musical stage production, introduce a jazz flavour to the music, coloured with trumpet by Dani Blanco Albert.
That’s evident from the get go with the swing of ‘Horns Of The Morning’, a poem about disillusionment, taken from Larkin’s first published collection The North Ship. It’s followed by the folksier, strings caressed swaying shades of ;’Days’, one of his shortest, a meditation on mortality from 1964’s The Whitsun Weddings. Returning to a jazz arrangement, the same collections yields a spoken rendition of ‘Mr Bleaney’ giving it 30s ballroom orchestra feel, the poem a reflection on the former occupant of the room the narrator is now renting. Brushed snares and strings then carry along ‘Long Lion Days’, one of Larkin’s final poems, a reflection on life as it enters the winter years.While a poet, Larkin’s first love was music and Albert, a graduate from Birmingham Conservatoire, pays homage to traditional New Orleans jazz on ‘For Sidney Bechet’, the only poem Larkin wrote explicitly about his passion.
While the title might not be familiar, published in 1971 as part of High Windows, perhaps Larkin’s best known work is ‘This Is The Verse’, you know, the one that starts with “They fuck you up, your mum and dad”, here given a suitably world weary delivery of Finch and a slow march tempo which, coloured by the strings, underscores the sense of emotional burden the poem addresses.
The title of the collection rather than poem itself, the penultimate track ‘High Windows’ is a classical chamber styled instrumental, framed around upright bass and strings, the musical anthology ending, again with classical sounding cascading strings, with a lovely pastoral arrangement ‘Trees’, another of his most famous verses and in which he equates the changing seasons with pain and death, writing “Their greenness is a kind of grief”, the track fittingly coming to a dying fall. Next year marks Larkin’s centenary, this comes as a marvellous early birthday present/
Artists’ website: www.mechanicalsband.com
‘The Horns Of The Morning’: