Obsidian Kit Downes

Cover Obsidian

Album info



Label: ECM Records

Genre: Jazz

Subgenre: Contemporary Jazz

Artist: Kit Downes

Album including Album cover Booklet (PDF)

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  • 1Kings06:15
  • 2Black Is The Colour03:59
  • 3Rings Of Saturn06:10
  • 4Seeing Things02:13
  • 5Modern Gods04:31
  • 6The Bone Gambler04:34
  • 7Flying Foxes03:11
  • 8Ruth's Song For The Sea05:27
  • 9Last Leviathan06:19
  • 10The Gift03:03
  • Total Runtime45:42

Info for Obsidian

Kit Downes’s previous ECM appearance was as pianist on the debut recording of Time Is A Blind Guide in 2015 and he’s critically-regarded as one of the UK’s outstanding young jazz talents. This recording however has little to do with “jazz”, although it could only have been made by an improviser of subtle sensibilities. Some of Downes’s earliest musical experiences were as a church organist and in recent years he has been revisiting the instrument, exploring its sonic possibilities and idiosyncrasies, in improvisations both melodic and textural. In November 2016 producer Sun Chung followed Downes to three English churches – the Snape Church of John the Baptist and Bromeswell St Edmund Church – both in Suffolk – and Union Chapel Church in Islington, London. These are very different acoustic spaces housing organs of very different characters which Downes investigates creatively. Alone for most of the album he is joined on one piece (“Modern Gods”) by frequent improvising partner Tom Challenger (tenor sax).

"Downes' creative approach on Obsidian ranges from singular spontaneous improvisations to multiple reassembled improvisations, to building on—and around—concepts. A key inspiration is French composer and organist Olivier Messiaen who Downes explains ..."blends the sounds of the instrument to give real form and colour to the performance. You can be both an improviser and an orchestrator in the moment." Messiaen, in fact, rejected much of the analytical terminology of music suggesting that there is only music with, or without, color. Downes has taken that to heart on this beautiful collection and he has plans to expand on his use of the organ in a future project. Obsidian is highly recommended." (AllAboutJazz)

Kit Downes, church organ
Tom Challenger, tenor saxophone (on track 5)

Kit Downes
writes, performs and teaches music, as well as playing the piano, Hammond Organ, church organ and various other keyboards in a variety of different ensembles.

Having originally been an organ scholar at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, he then left to study piano, organ and composition at both the Purcell School of Music (where he now teaches), and later at the Royal Academy of Music (where he is now an Associate). Kit began performing with and composing for the UK band 'Empirical' – with whom he toured the US, Canada and Europe (playing at 'Newport Jazz Festival'), whilst also performing with Acoustic Ladyland, Micachu, Lee Kontiz and Django Bates.

Kit has received a Mercury Music Award nomination (in 2010), BBC Jazz Award, and a British Jazz Award for his own albums, and now tours with his own group ‘ENEMY’, Troyka, songwriter Josienne Clarke, Julian Arguelles' Quartet, Squarepusher, Thomas Stronen and Sylvain Darrifourcq – playing all over the world. In 2013 and 2015 he was nominated in the Rising Star category in Downbeat Magazine (US), and in 2014 won the 'Best Album Award' at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. In 2015 Kit recorded his first album for ECM with Thomas Strønen’s ‘Time is a Blind Guide’. Kit now teaches piano and composition at the Purcell School of Music, and is also a patron of the ‘Musical Keys’ charity.

In 2013 he was asked by Django Bates to join his new ensemble ’The TDEs’ to play a new commission for both BBC Radio 3 and Cheltenham Jazz Festival (alongside his Troyka band mates). Later in 2014 he began touring with world famous clinic drummer Benny Greb - after playing the Meinl Drum Festival last year, he later went onto co-produce Benny’s latest album ‘Moving Parts’.

Also In 2014 he was asked by the Southbank Centre to write a new work for the opening festival of the recently refurbished Royal Festival Hall Organ. Then in 2015 he worked with Aldeburgh Music and Tom Challenger on a project called ‘Vyamanikal’ - a series of recordings documenting extended techniques on various local church organs - the project was later performed live at the Aldeburgh Festival. He was asked by the Cologne Philharmonie to write a new work for their organ in 2016, and has performed original commissions by Shiva Feshareki for the Union Chapel Organ. He has previously been commissioned by the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, the Wellcome Trust, Darmstadt Organ Festival 2015 (with drummer Jonas Burgwinkel), BBC Radio 2, BBC Jazz on 3, Jazzwise Magazine, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, London Contemporary Music Festival, London Jazz Festival and Aldeburgh Music. Upcoming commissions include a work for organ and 4 cellos for ‘Tre Voci’ to be performed in Oslo in 2016, as well as a new work for ‘Stavanger Organ Day 2016’, and an adaptation of ‘Vyamanikal’ for Manchester Jazz Festival 2016 and co- curating a music technology instillation at Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2016. He has also started songwriting with BBC Folk Award winner Josienne Clarke, and this year recorded on her new album for Rough Trade.

In 2015 he was asked to join Squarepusher’s live band ‘Shobaleader One’ - interpreting works from Squarepusher’s back catalogue for a live band.

Kit has also collaborated (on a range of acoustic and electronic instruments) with composers Matt Rogers and Mica Levi, electronic musician Leafcutter John, drummer Seb Rochford, filmmaker Ashley Pegg, artist Dave McKean, animator Lesley Barnes and geneticist Adam Rutherford (for the Wellcome Trust).

Booklet for Obsidian

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