AMANDA WHITING-AFTER DARK.
Amanda Whiting-After Dark.
Label: Jazzman Records.
Nowadays, Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby are regarded as two of the greatest jazz harpists. Their music was ambitious and innovative and has influenced and inspired several generations of musicians.
This includes Welsh jazz harpist Amanda Whiting whose music has undoubtably been influenced by the two jazz greats. That’s apparent on her new album After Dark which was recently released by Jazzman Records. It’s the latest chapter in a story that began when she a six year old watching television in the family home in Wales.
That was when Amanda Whiting saw Harpo Marx playing a harp on a film that was being shown on television. She was enthralled and decided that she wanted to learn to play the instrument.
Soon, she was taking lessons and was later accepted into Wells Cathedral Music School where she was the first harpist to obtain a scholarship as a specialist musician. This was just the start of her musical education.
At university Amanda Whiting graduated with a degree in music and LRSM in the harp. This was followed in 2013 with a Masters degree in jazz and was a first in Britain where she’s been a pioneer of jazz harp. By then, she was already a recording artist.
In 2007, Amanda Whiting had self-released her debut album Something Borrowed…Something New. Little did she know it would be fourteen years before she released the followup. Much had happened by then.
After graduating, Amanda Whiting spent much of her time teaching at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and recently has tutored at RNCM and Junior RNCM. She’s also written a series of books that are part of the syllabus at Trinity College London. Remarkably, this is just part of the Amanda Whiting story.
Still, she’s managed to find time to compose new material and has performed at festivals around the world. This includes touring extensively with Matthew Halsall and The Gondwana Orchestra. She’s also collaborated with DJ Yoda and Chip Wickham on his album Blue To Red which was released in 2020. Later that year, Amanda Whiting signed to Jazzman Records.
By then, she was already a familiar face on the British jazz scene and had worked with some of its leading lights. However, it was now time for Amanda Whiting to take centrestage.
She released the Little Sunflower 10” EP on the ‘16th’ of November 2020. It featured five tracks which were recorded seven years ago. They’re a mixture of modern covers and jazz standards. This included the Duke Ellington composition In A Sentimental Mood and Caravan which he wrote with Juan Tizoli. These tracks were reinvented by the pioneering Welsh jazz harpist who took them in a new direction. The EP was well received by critics who awaited Amanda Whiting’s first album for Jazzman Records.
For her sophomore album, Amanda Whiting wrote ten tracks and cowrote Time Stands Still with Chip Wickham. These eleven tracks became After Dark.
The album was recorded by Andrew Lawson and produced by Paula Gardiner. Joining harpist Amanda Whiting was drummer Jon Reynolds, double bassist Aidan Thorn and guest artist Chip Wickham who plays alto flute on Time Stands Still and flute on Stay For One and Just Blue. However, when the album was ready for release there was a twelfth track.
This was Rebecca Vasmant’s remix of After Dark which features vocals from Nadya Albertsson. It shows a quite different side to the original track thanks to the ethereal vocal which soars high above the arrangement. The result is a welcome addition to After Dark.
Recently, Jazzman Records released After Dark which is the first album that Amanda Whiting has released in fourteen years. It’s marks the welcome return of the Welsh harpist with what’s a cinematic album with a late night sound.
After Dark is about a love affair that’s gone wrong. It’s a relationship that had an inauspicious start and was Messed Up from the beginning. It’s no wonder that tracks like Who Knows, Leave Me Be, Gone and Just Blue are part of the musical script.
However, things were once very different in the early days as Time Stands Still and Stay For One suggest. That was in the past.
With the relationship at an end, there’s a degree of bravado during Strut Your Stuff and Feist which breeze along as if trying to exude confidence and mask the sadness and heartache that’s felt After Dark.
Closing the album is the jaunty sounding Back To It. It’s as if there’s no option but to put a brave face on and get on with life now that the relationship is at an end. There’s a sense of hope for the future as jazz and Latin music combine during this summery sounding track that brings the story to an end.
Amanda Whiting’s sophomore album After Dark is akin to a jazz harp concept album where the music is emotive, tinged with sadness and sometimes has a rueful sound that’s hints at regret at love lost. Other times, the music is atmospheric and sometimes it becomes filmic as if it’s the soundtrack album. The music is also quite beautiful and tugs at the heartstrings. Sometimes, it’s hopeful and other times there’s a sense of bravado and other times this tight and talented band ensure that the music swings. They’re led by Amanda Whiting who is one of the rising starts of British jazz.
Amanda Whiting’s cinematic soul-baring album After Dark is an emotional roller coaster journey with a late night sound that tells the story of a relationship that’s gone wrong and is sure to tug at the heartstrings.
Amanda Whiting-After Dark.