Aoife Mannix and Raymond MacDonald knew in advance what poems they would use, but not how they'd sound. "On the day we did a couple of improvised recordings of each track, experimenting with different approaches to combining my poetry with Raymond's music," she recalls. And while each performance stands alone, they've been sequenced to impart a gradually increasing intimacy. The opening "Fashion Statement" celebrates self-adornment as self-declaration. The next track "Sputnik" introduces a longing for human connection that extends across apparent light years; two later, "Heights," she thanks her father for admitting to at least one fear. Death, the ultimate threat and deepest terror, looms like a withered, ready-to-topple oak over love and life in the penultimate "We Are Here." Mannix's writing, semi-autobiographical and deeply personal, uses memories of childhood epiphanies and adult experiences (or vice versa) to make more universal points. "Other Voices" represents two firsts within Raymond MacDonald's sizable discography. While he had played with several singers and improvised in numerous duos, he'd never been a poet's sole accompanist before. Once we started actually playing together the piano seemed to fit very well into the mix of what we were doing. Hopefully the contrasts between the piano/voice and sax/voice pieces sets up some interesting contrasts for the listener. I guess another reason for playing the piano is that there is a beautiful Steinway piano available at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, where we recorded the CD, and being opportunistic I wanted to have a go. This is the venue where Evan Parker recorded his last Electro-Acoustic Ensemble CD for ECM - as well as beautiful piano it has a great acoustic and a fantastic engineer in Kenny MacLeod." On piano, MacDonald's accompaniment is more conventionally tuneful, the links to the words easier to parse. He matches "Listening" pensive mood with soft, doleful chords, and mocks Mannix's lusty lamentation with sprightly, off-kilter figures on "I Will Survive." His fluttering soprano sax flits about Mannix's voice on "Heights," matching her dad's vertigo with his notes that pad on air like Wylie E. Coyote suspended above the canyon. The closest he comes to the jazz language of Sims and Cohn is his alto on "Only The Essentials." Like his forbears, he doesn't so much comment on the words' literal meaning as dance with the vocalist's rhythms. "I wanted to avoid being the noisy blustering saxophonist emoting over the top and obfuscating the lyrical intent of Aoife's pieces." He succeeded.
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