The recording mirrors the arc of energy in a passing day with two new commissions by Luke Howard and Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory and Nyman’s virtuosic Where the Bee Dances at its heart.
Following her debut album RISE, which reached No.1 in the UK Classical chart, Classic BRIT Award-winning saxophonist Jess Gillam released TIME on Friday 25 September on Decca Classics.
I listen to and love such a huge array of music so the album’s influences range from classical to techno and minimalism to alternative pop!Jess Gillam
The album mirrors the arc of energy in a passing day and the constant orbit of our existence. With a huge range of styles, moods and influences, the music offers the listener a space to immerse themselves in an oasis of sound and reflection. Gillam carefully curated the recording to be experienced as a whole, accompanying the listener through the unrelenting cycles of life itself – it will make you want to dance, pause, soar with the melodies or simply just smile.
Jess Gillam says: “Last year I moved to London and quickly became acutely aware of the speed and intensity of life. Everything is in constant orbit: I am orbiting around the world as a musician, there’s the orbit of a day, of thoughts around the mind and I noticed how many people are looking for a place to stop and reflect.
I began thinking about this and wanted to create an album which gives the listener space in which to immerse themselves and perhaps give them a moment away from the world as it is right now. I listen to and love such a huge array of music so the album’s influences range from classical to techno and minimalism to alternative pop!
To me, music can be completely transformative and the experience of watching a live performance or sitting down to listen to an album is one of the only places in modern life where we can completely focus on what is happening before us with no distractions. There are no screens, no instant messaging, just a sense of direct communication. It’s something that requires patience but can be utterly life-affirming.”
At the heart of the album is Where the Bee Dances: minimalist pioneer Michael Nyman’s 20-minute masterpiece for saxophone and orchestra. The incredibly electrifying and technical concerto is one of Gillam’s signature pieces and the work she performed in the final of BBC Young Musician in 2016, launching her career at the age of 17. Played on the album with the Aurora Orchestra and conducted by Nicholas Collon, recorded at Abbey Road, it is a piece that has inspired her from a young age. Nyman is also well known for his multi-platinum soundtrack album to Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993).
With a passion for pushing the boundaries of the saxophone and always looking to the next chapter of classical music, Gillam has also specially commissioned two new works for the album: Dappled Light by Luke Howard and Orbit by Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory. The rest of the record features vivid contrasts between the intense rhythmic groove of Anna Meredith, the lilting, hypnotic patterns of Brian Eno as well as the hard-edged romanticism of Nyman and the gentle, melancholic whispers of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. There are also arrangements of works from multi-faceted and genre-breaking alternative artists including Björk and James Blake alongside familiar classical names such as Philip Glass, Max Richter and Joby Talbot. There will also be a 10-minute mini-documentary charting the making of the album available after the release date.
Australian Music Prize twice-longlisted composer Howard’s Dappled Light is a reflection on early dawn, with a soothing bed of soft piano and marimba sounds. The floating saxophone echoes bird song at the break of the day and growing warmth from strings resembles the sun as it rises.
Gregory, a renowned composer, producer, and saxophonist, composed Orbit as a reflection on the hustle and bustle of day. The saxophone spins around in driving, cyclic melodic patterns, over a relentless arpeggic figure shared by marimba and strings and the groove of a bass synth underlay.
Collaboration is a key component of the album and Gillam’s work. It is the first time the Jess Gillam Ensemble, made up of musician friends,have played and recorded together: the tracks were also refined in the studio with the input of the Ensemble as well as the composers/arrangers themselves. The album was mixed and mastered remotely whilst in lockdown.
Jess Gillam says: “Making this album was one of the best experiences of my life. I was fortunate enough to record with an incredible group of musicians and close friends. The pieces grew and changed and were moulded over a few days and the feeling of collectivity, collaboration and concentration paired with a lot of laughter and smiling made for one of the most inspiring musical environments I’ve experienced. I am very grateful to all the musicians who have contributed to this album and to our wonderful producer Jonathan Allen.
Whilst we were able to get into the studio to record before lockdown, the process since then has been quite different! Due to the restrictions, we were not able to do a photoshoot so I hope you enjoy the homemade nature of the single covers!”
- Meredith Monk Early Morning Melody
- Luke Howard Dappled Light (commission)
- Thom Yorke arr. Benjamin Rimmer Suspirium
- Philip Glass arr. Simon Parkin Truman Sleeps
- Anna Meredith arr. Jack Ross Bubble Gun
- Michael Nyman Where the Bee Dances
- Will Gregory Orbit (commission)
- Björk arr. John Metcalfe Venus as a Boy
- Max Richter arr. Elspeth Mackay On the Nature of Daylight
- Philip Glass Melody for Saxophone No.10
- James Blake arr. Benjamin Rimmer Retrograde
- Joby Talbot Transit of Venus
- Brian Eno/Jon Hopkins/Leo Abrahams arr. Geoff Lawson Emerald and Stone
Jess Gillam saxophone
Aurora Orchestra/Nick Collon
Jess Gillam Ensemble
- Roberts Balanas Violin
- Michael Jones Violin
- Ciaran McCabe Violin
- Gabriella Jones Violin
- Laurie Anderson Viola
- Eoin Schmidt-Martin Viola
- Oscar Holch Viola
- Ali Vennart Viola
- Gabriella Swallow Cello
- Matthew Sharp Cello
- Rowena Calvert Cello
- Sam Becker Double Bass/ Bass Guitar/ Bass Synth
- Leif Lidstrom Piano/ Rhodes
- Ben Dawson Piano
- Lysandre Ménard Piano
- Elsa Bradley Marimba/ Vibraphone/ Glockenspiel
- Olivia Jageurs Harp
- Sam Wilson Percussion
- Alasdair Malloy Glass Harmonica
- John Metcalfe Percussive Sounds