Empirical: Tabula Rasa

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Empirical
LABELS: Naim Jazz
ALBUM TITLE: Empirical: Tabula Rasa
WORKS: Tabula Rasa
PERFORMER: Nathaniel Facey (saxophone), Shaney Forbes (drums), Tom Farmer (bass), Lewis Wright (vibraphone)


Unhelpfully, Empirical is often tagged as neo-this or post-that and there’s always a strange sense of the ground constantly shifting underneath the band’s music, as if everything were ‘work in progress’. But if you take this latter point as central to the spirit of jazz, everything snaps into focus.

Double albums of new music seem luxurious these days, but the format allows the combination of piano-less jazz group and string quartet to be explored from several directions, the latter setting everything from rhythmic encouragement and assertive melodies to a meandering Ivesian melancholia alongside a jazz-derived component that ranges from the bleakly contemplative to the gloriously full-on. The production is bottom-heavy, with a thumps-and-rumbles drum sound that tends to muddy the lower register, but don’t let that put you off and do play both discs in their entirety at one sitting; there’s a big picture here.


Roger Thomas