An Adventurous Dream

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so raw, so visceral – yet so specific

My first awareness of the rich, darkly evocative and often heart-wrenching words and music of Billy Strayhorn, was Donna Summer. I was at university in London and whilst struggling with the dullest, most academic of classical music degrees, sought the escape-route of pop, soul, funk, jazz and… well, anything that wasn’t Richard Wagner, endless Schenkerian analyses of the symphonic form, and the stuffy, non-vocational take on music. Decidedly unstuffy was hearing Donna sing Lush Life. I’d never heard such a magical, personal meeting of words, melody and chord changes.

Ransacking the Soho record shops, I soon amassed a healthy collection of recorded music, touched by this young black, openly gay genius. I learned about his life: the over thirty years of his nurturing friendship and collaboration with the great Duke Ellington; the extraordinary stories from which titles were born. Titles that are, at once, as exotic as they are experiential. Blood Count, Isfahan, Passion Flower, Day Dream. And of course, Lush Life.

I’ve always admired the creative drive, the collaborative desires of the redoubtable and soulful UK saxophonist, Tony Kofi. I’d recently heard a BBC Radio Four programme, where Kofi talked of a life-threatening incident that led him to music. We were forever bumping into each other at festivals and plotting a gig together. Tony guested with me and we played Stray’s Day Dream. That sealed it. The superb Barry Green was in the piano chair. PizzaExpress’s Joe Paice invited us to create a whole show of it and Barry suggested the Brit bass playing legend Dave Green to complete the line-up. The thought of sharing the stage with these giants was nourishing.

A couple of shows later, playing this beautiful music, and An Adventurous Dream was the show. Joe this time asked us to record it, in a live session playing at the stunning Dean Street club again.

I often imagine, when I’m stepping back, listening to Tony’s soul-deep playing, the swinging, astonishingly intoned and spirited Dave Green, set against the almost illegally inventive curls and super voicings of an ever-grinning Barry Green—what would Stray think?

One thing is for sure. This singer really means it. I think Billy would approve. After all, when the truth of any art form is so raw, so visceral - yet so specific? You truly can relax on the axis of the wheel of life.

And laugh, in spite of it. Life, that is.

Ian Shaw
London, January 2024

the key that opened our universe

I’ve known of Ian Shaw for at least three decades and have always admired his vocal performances and albums. I saw Ian’s jaw-dropping solo performance, voice & piano, at the 2016 Swanage Jazz Festival and desperately wanted to sit in but was a little hesitant to ask him, so I just enjoyed and admired his show and thought ‘maybe another time’.

As luck should have it, our chance meeting on the beach front at the 2021 Scarborough Jazz Festival created an opportunity when he asked me to join him on one of his annual residency shows at London’s PizzaExpress Jazz Club. I smiled and calmly said yes but inside I was jumping for joy like a child in a sweet shop, that was my chance to really bring something different with me.

We played many compositions that night but a request of two of our favourite composers, Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington, was the key that opened our universe—hearing Ian sing Daydream was heavenly, resulting in this live-recorded album a year later that also features two of the most sensitive, lyrical, and swinging musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of performing with, bassist Dave Green and pianist Barry Green.

This is truly an incredible gathering of four musicians who dare to travel this Adventurous Dream.

Tony Kofi
London, 2024

Ian dedicates his performance to Haydn Gwynne (1957-2023), who was here for this live recording.