Greg Foat-Symphonie Pacifique.

Label: Strut

Release Date: ‘3rd’ July 2020.

Prolific and versatile are words that describe London-based Greg Foat, who nowadays, is regarded as one of Britain’s top jazz pianists and composers.  His career began back in the noughties, and in 2009, he founded The Greg Foat Group who went on to release five albums between 2011 and 2016. That is just part of the story.

Greg Foat who has previously been described as a “born collaborator,” has also recorded albums with Warren Hampshire as well as James Thorpe and Nick Moore aka Linkwood. These albums featured everything from library music, pastoral acid folk, soul-jazz and haunting, cinematic compositions. They were released to plaudits and praise and were a commercial success. Despite such a hectic schedule, 

Despite collaborating on six  albums since 2017, Greg Foat still finds time to record solo albums.

His latest solo album is the much-anticipated Symphonie Pacifique, which is the first album that Greg Foat has released  for Strut, who he signed to earlier in 2020. It’s a new start for the London-based bandleader, composer and pianist, and is the ninth album that Greg Foat has released in the last four years. Symphonie Pacifique is best described as an expansive and widescreen album that features some of the lushest soundscapes Greg Foat has recorded.  

For the recording of Symphonie Pacifique, Greg Foat built these lush soundscapes using choral textures, and uses a harp and tubular bells on the album. He explains: “It has been a hallmark of my previous albums to use choral voices and tubular bells to sound more like chordal instruments…     “I used pedal steel for the first time on these tracks.” The pedal steel was put to good use on the album.

It opens with the ruminative Prelude, which lasts just twenty-eight seconds. Very different is Symphonie Pacifique, where the rhythm section set the scene and stabs of piano tease the listener. They know something special is about to unfold, and it does. Greg Foat’s fingers dance across the rippling keyboard as  strings sweep and a choral influence can be heard. Together they paint pictures of blues skies, golden beaches and better times. Later, he pounds the piano as if in frustration, but celestial voices reassure and strings sweep as if saying the good times will return.

Undulation is another short wistful soundscape that invites reflection. It gives way to Anticipation, a sensuous sounding, groove-based soundscape that initially, its dubby and dreamy with a Balearic influence. There’s even a nod to Underworld’s Born Slippy as synths, sweeping, swirling strings and scatted vocals combine. Later, it’s all change as  duelling braying horns are unleashed and cascade as they’re played with power and speed. By now, the influence of Donald Byrd and the Mizell Brothers can be heard on this captivating, ethereal and cinematic soundscape.

Mu is another ruminative interlude where dark strings dominate. It’s followed by Yonaguni where disparate genres melt into one. This includes everything from slinky jazz-funk, house, funk and acid jazz. However, it’s Greg Foat’s piano that plays a leading role, while seesaw strings, sci-fi sounds and ethereal vocals play supporting roles in this uplifting and memorable song with a summery vibe. So has the languorous, and leisurely sounding Island Life which is one of the highlights of the album.

Greg Foat explains about Nikinakinu. “This was one for my stepson Nicky. I worked up this idea with him and my Zimbabwean drummer friend Sam Chagumachinyi so it has a slightly African feel to it and uses pentatonic scales”. The tempo rises on this genre-melting workout. Funk and fusion  combine with the African influence on this feelgood track where Greg Foat channels the spirit of Herbie Hancock and  blasts of horns provide the perfect accompaniment.

Man Vs Machine sounds as it’s been insprired by a classic  Kraftwerk track. Percussion combines with an analog drum duet on what’s best described as ‘21st’ Century robo-funk.

Very different is the beautiful, haunting and ruminative Before The Storm. It sounds as if it should belong on a film soundtrack. So does the atmospheric and cinematic After The Storm. The experimental sounding Meditation On A Pedal Steel sounds as if it should belong on a Wim Wenders soundtrack. It’s one of the finest tracks on Symphonie Pacifique. 

One of the most poignant tracks on the album is Lament For Lamont. It’s a tribute to KPM library music legend Duncan Lamont who also worked with Frank Sinatra, and recorded  Best Of The Bossa Novas one of the biggest selling British jazz albums. He featured on Greg Foat’s album The Mage and was meant to play on Symphonie Pacifique. Sadly, he passed away a couple of months before the sessions, and this is Greg Foat’s beautiful, poignant tribute to one of the unsung heroes of British jazz, and a hero to many afficianados of library music.

Pointe Vénus is meanders along encoring the listener to reflect and ruminate. Greg Foat’s piano is accompanied by an understated and ethereal arrangement that floats along. Later, horns adds a jazzy hue and accompanies the rippling piano adding a degree of drama and to the beauty that is omnipresent. Beauty is also omnipresent throughout Mother’s Love, where a distant saxophone is part of an ethereal and dubby soundscape.

Closing Symphonie Pacifique is Epilogue-Three Tenors.  Greg Foat heads to the control room and lets the three tenors take centrestage. They create an undulating, shimmering and dubby soundscape that is subtle, understated and again encourages reflection. It’s the perfect way to close the album.

Symphonie Pacifique is without doubt, the finest solo album of Greg Foat’s career. It’s an emotional roller coaster with a cinematic quality where the music veers between ruminative and inviting reflection to beautiful, languorous and joyous on what’s an almost flawless album.

It finds Greg Foat flitting seamlessly between and combining disparate genres and influences. There’s everything from African music to ambient, Balearic, dub, electronica, funk, house and jazz to jazz-funk, fusion, library music, soul-jazz and soundtracks. Then there’s the influence of everyone from David Axelrod, Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Kraftwerk, the Mizell Brothers,  Underworld and Wim Wenders. Add to all these disparate genres and influences  lush strings and choral influences and Symphonie Pacifique is a captivating that doesn’t disappoint.

Bandleader, composer, pianist and producer Greg Foat comes of age musically on Symphonie Pacifique, which is his Magnus Opus, and a timeless album that sets the bar high for the future. However, if anyone can top Symphonie Pacifique it’s Greg Foat who is one of the leading lights of British jazz and an inventive and innovative musician never lets his standards drop despite his prolificacy. 

Greg Foat-Symphonie Pacifique.

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