Review: Sean Foran at Turner Sims, Southampton

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Three years after his last performance at the Turner Sims with Trichotomy, Australian pianist Sean Foran, now under his name and with a new band, played to a respectful audience the tender and subtle songs of his last album, Frame of Reference, among other unreleased themes. With the gripping guitarist Stuart McCallum, the remarkable clarinettist James Mainwaring, and Sam Lasserson and Joost Hendrickx on bass and drums respectively, he gave a varied concert with some startling moments.

In the line of other young pianists such as Aaron Parks, Sean seems to be have been influenced by a very wide range of musical styles, from modern jazz to more classical composers; from Chick Corea to Erik Satie. All these artistic trends can be found in his music, but under many layers of melodic lyricism and very personal arrangements. His compositions are complex and soulful, full of crescendos and fluent transitions. A good example of it is the song that opened the evening (and also the album), “Room With A View”. Starting with a piano melody on a loop, the song grows instrument by instrument: first the bass, then the clarinet, and lastly the guitar and drums. This structure, present (with variations) in many of his songs, seems to be his trademark ─ in his compositions nothing excels too much. There are no eternal solos, and improvisation just when required. Only when the band played “Mish Mash” and “A Fine Balance” we could hear jazz in the traditional sense of the word, with a moment for each instrument and a melody to structure it all.

However, if I had to highlight one particular musician it would be without doubt the guitarist Stuart McCallum. Although at first he even passed unnoticed, hidden behind his effects pedals and focused on giving atmosphere with open chords, his song “All The Trees Waltz” (Sadly not yet released), performed only by Sean and him, was one of the peaks of the evening. The band also played another original of him, for the moment untitled, which was the most experimental moment of the concert. As an example, Mainwaring even used his clarinet for a while as a percussion instrument, something I had never seen before.

The concert closed with two more songs: “The Sum Of”, a silent, slow and almost funky groove accompanied by a mysterious melody of clarinet; and the also rhythmically rich “Dare to Dream”. And though the Turner Sims demanded an encore that never came, it didn’t matter: Sean Foran only needed two hours to prove that he is a serious candidate to become one of jazz’s main figures in the years to come. For our sake, we better keep an eye on him.

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Second year Philosophy student. Clearly not English.

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