With the release of Spike Mason's latest album, Widening Circles, it is evident that he is deliberately walking a unique musical path that leads to a place of reflection and meditation.
The album is a collection of gorgeous songs - rich with melody and mystery. The words, sung by the 2012 National Jazz Award winner Kristin Berardi, are an english translation of poems penned over a hundred years ago by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The music is composed in a style that is a synergy of jazz and classical music, drawing both instrumentation and stylistic elements from both.
“The writing came slowly,” says Mason, “I worked for eight years on the music, and over that time the words have weaved their way into my life. I knew I couldn't get in the way of these poems - the music had to cushion and support the lyrics, all the way through. If I moved toward overpowering them, the structure and meaning would simply collapse.”
The music was played by an impressive ensemble of musicians. Alongside Mason's saxophones and Kristin's vocals are Henri Peipman on piano, Mark Lau on double bass, Gillian Smith on bassoon, and Gareth Lewis on trombone.
“We spent three days with the sound engineer Ross A'hern in a little studio on the central coast of New South Wales,” Mason continued. “We all stayed in the same hotel and ate breakfast at the same cafe each morning. It felt like a family holiday, very relaxing, and a great way to eliminate all of the usual daily distractions. That environment enabled us to simply concentrate on the music, it really helped to produce a beautiful recording.”
With self-assured, unpretentious, soothing and ever-moving compositions Mason forms the perfect bed for Rilke’s deep, God-seeking whispers. The opening line from one of the songs best describes the album - “In deep nights, I dig for you like treasure.” You will discover though, that Widening Circles shys away from the traditional gems: ruby and emerald choruses and the falsetto of diamantes. Instead, it moves into the strange strata of those semi-precious stones: the jasper of blue notes, the seductive amber of ambiguity, and the onyx of intimate darkness. Sensuous, spiritual, consoling. These songs will drip like hot wax into the carpet of your mind – they’re going to stay there for a long time!