Beatha is the debut solo album by flautist, pianist and whistle player Tina Jordan Rees who is originally from Lancashire but studied in both Limerick and Glasgow and is much travelled. All the music here is composed by Tina and she is accompanied by guitarist Seán Gray, Lea Larsen on bodhran and renowned Breabach bass-player James Lindsay.
Beatha means life in both Scots and Irish Gaelic and it is an apt title for this album. There isn’t a sad tune anywhere and Tina is clearly celebrating her life, travels and friends and family – not to mention cats. The opening set, ‘The Squirrel Returns/KPC’ begins with guitar from Gray who maintains a dynamic accompaniment when Tina introduces the melody and Larsen’s bodhran joins the fray. Like many composers in the traditional vein, Tina picks what, to us, are trivial observations and incidents for her titles. So we have ‘Ducks At Luss/House 108’ referencing Scotland and Ireland and ‘G’s Reel/Tripod’s Frolics/Nan Lian Garden’ for her friend Gráinne Brady, the first of the cats to get a mention and a garden in Hong Kong. Tina switches to whistle for this set. ‘Copenhagen Cycles/Visits From Stanley’ is about her travels and another cat – you can detect a pattern, I’m sure.
‘The Cable Cars/Ngong Ping Brolly/Rainbow Flats’ are three more tunes from that Hong Kong trip. The first is a wild jazzy piece, the second is the nearest the album comes to a downbeat tune (it was raining) and clearly it was sunny for the third composition. From Hong Kong Tina seems to have dropped in on Phuket before going home and writing a tune for her mum. The title track begins with contemplative piano with a whistle tune over the top and full backing from the band but Tina’s natural exuberance soon bursts free.
The final set begins with ‘Erik’s’, the third cat to get a mention and now late lamented. This is the downbeat tune that Beatha almost didn’t have but, almost inevitably, Tina bursts into a 6/4 reel to close the collection.
Tina is without doubt a talented composer and a brilliant player and her band are without parallel. Oddly, though, I was finding the album rather repetitive up to about the half-way point. My curmudgeonly nature can only take so much optimism and I was looking for some variety that didn’t seem to be coming. The second half of the album gave me some of that variety but a different sequencing might have helped. Or a bit of misery.
Artist’s website: www.tinajordanrees.com
‘The Squirrel Returns/KPC’:
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