Stories » Laurence Hobgood: tesseterra is solitude captured with spirit and conviction / Financial Times

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Laurence Hobgood: tesseterra is solitude captured with spirit and conviction / Financial Times

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The gripping preludes that introduce the seven evergreen songs on this piano trio and string quartet set fade to a simmer when the tune kicks in. "Wichita Lineman", the album's lead track, captures solitude with bleakly voiced strings before supporting the melody with a gently rocking pulse. A clearly stated "All of You" arrives after an upbeat chase between trio and strings and the chirpy theme of The Beatles' "Blackbird" is set up by a bustle of string-delivered smears and plunks.

Hobgood's arrangements focus on the emotional content of the lyrics and his score for the accomplished Ethel String Quartet draws on a swathe of classical music history. Delivered with spirit and conviction, it gives few musical clues as to what will come next, even with the American weaving in pristine arpeggios and fluent light touch lines.

Themes appear, rarely announced, several minutes in, usually with the rhythm section as background support. And here, the album, momentarily, threatens to be bland. But the reappearance of the strings, further narrative twists and Laurence Hobgood's delicately crafted improvisations give the album a gravitas that stands up to scrutiny. Hobgood, like Bob James, balances emotional delicacy with intellectual rigour.

Thus, the 11-minute "Georgia on My Mind" begins as a sombre rhapsody, gains rhythmic thrust and soulful edge and then undulates gently through balladry, gospel soul and more before a perfect cadence calls time. The up-tempo "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" evolves through stages and "We Shall Overcome" swirls through gentle rumination, optimism, sober reflection and moments of despair before ending in calm.

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