18. Serious fun

Lullaby for Igor. From Rita Marcotulli and Andy Sheppard, On the edge of a perfect moment, 2005

Andy Sheppard is the saxophonist I’ve heard perform most often, by far. He’s been a personal favourite ever since he came on the scene, his own groups always worth catching at festivals. And until recently he still lived in Bristol, where his policy when he wasn’t away touring was basically, if he could go out and play of an evening, he would. Some of us were always happy to join him.

He’s made a heap of great records too, of course, as leader and – so many times! – with Carla Bley. How to choose just one track? I’m always drawn to duos, and so is he it seems. There are notable sessions with Keith Tippett, John Parricelli, Kuljit Bhamra, and Joanna MacGregor. And this one, from the noughties, with the wonderful Italian pianist Rita Marcotulli. She’s never been heard enough in the UK, though she did once make it over here with Dewey Redman, but all her work is worth investigating.

CD liner photo of the duo: Estella Marcheggiano

This record, like other Sheppard duos, is full of the sound of two mutually sympathetic players having fun, but this track is especially playful. The Igor Andy had in mind was Dr Frankenstein’s sidekick, not Stravinsky, and he resists the effect of the bluesy lullaby. Sheppard’s tenor leads the protests, then the piano draws it back into the song and in end, calm prevails. It’s a little silly, really, with its long drawn-out pauses at the close. Both players have laid down more profound tracks, some of them on this record – Marcotulli’s sprightly inventiveness and Sheppard’s superb control on tenor and soprano instruments both beautifully displayed throughout. But this one still makes me smile.

Full album.

Why the No 18? This is one of a series running (in no particular order) through 2021. I explain a bit what it’s doing here.

There’s a cumulative playlist of all the ones that can be found on Spotify

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