Just over a year after the Cinematic Orchestra guitarist Stuart McCallum released his acclaimed Naim debut album of ambient jazz-electronica, the Mancunian's distinctive and ethereal guitar playing headlines this new long player 'Distilled Live'; captured live during the 40-date European tour that succeeded the release of his studio album 'Distilled'. McCallum premiered the 'Distilled' album at Royal Northern College of Music's Opera Theatre during Manchester Jazz Festival to a raucous homecoming reception, in the summer of 2011, setting an impressive tone with 16-piece ensemble and stunning visuals from artist Linder, heralded for her iconic and controversial 'Orgasm Addict' artwork for The Buzzcocks. The music, a culmination of McCallum's own musings from the last few years, carefully reflect the concept of 'distillation'; sampling the strongest cuts and using them as the bed with which to inspire new ideas, repeating the process, until arriving at the perfectly distilled version of his desired expression. As McCallum's inventiveness sits at an intriguing cross-roads between the acoustic and the techno-acoustic, the past twelve months of hard touring have ranged from a McCallum/laptop duo of beats loops and guitar, to trio/quartet arrangements, right through to the inclusion of woodwind sections and even a nine piece string section (an expanded version of McCallum's touring string players, The Prism Quartet). The simply titled 'Distilled Live' features several such occurrences, with a 13-piece orchestral ensemble underpinned by the incredible rhythm section of drummer Dave Walsh (a Manchester scene veteran, who like McCallum now tutors at Leeds College Of Music) and bass player Robin Mullarkey (celebrated for his distinctive work with Zero 7 and José James in equal measure). No stranger to big productions, having worked on Cinematic Orchestra's 'Live At The Royal Album Hall' performance and subsequent album, McCallum remains humbled; "Being able to tour Distilled with such experienced musicians and good friends has been a lot of fun. I was able to adjust the size of the band to suit each individual venue from the large ensemble in concert halls, to solo performances by myself in small, intimate club settings." Heralded for the beatific flurries she added to the studio album Distilled, harpist Rachael Gladwin also contributes in equal measure. Despite the practical challenges of touring with an instrument as large as a harp, McCallum quickly realised the value of Rachel's parts in the live context, not just visually but texturally. "The harp has such a fantastic visual presence on stage, but also blends really well with the guitar. During the tour it has been great to play the written textures with Rachael, as well as to hear her open up in the improvising sections that were left for her to fill", approves McCallum. 'Distilled Live' opens with a new treat for studio album lovers. "What Is Beauty?" samples the soothing intonation of Indian philosopher Krisnamurti, whose teachings have deeply inspired McCallum's music and outlook, resting upon a cradle of strings, driving bass and soaring modes from McCallum's deft guitar playing. Although, in a contrasting running order to the original studio album, 'Distilled Live' features all the same high points including the minimal melodic groove of "dR Doctor", the soaring momentum of "Inflight", Part I and Part II of "Hillcrest" combined into one epic enactment and two exclusive as-yet-unheard compositions 'The Wait' and aptly titled closer 'And Finally
' available on the compact disc album. The 'Distilled' dynasty marks an unforgettable time in McCallum's life, who became a parent for the first time a week after the release of 'Distilled'. He says, "I'm glad that I managed to finish the album before we had the baby! Although I've had a lot less time to myself than I'm used to, I've still written a lot of music this year it's been a wonderfully inspiring time." Whilst McCallum continues to field offers to perform the music from 'Distilled' in Europe, he has been invited to tour the UK in an acoustic guitar duo with Mike Walker (of The Impossible Gentlemen), scored a ballet that will premiere at le Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville in Paris in January 2013, composed, recorded and performed original music for Tokyo's Ropponghi Art Night (alongside Nitin Sawhney and Ghostpoet), contributed to the new album from Richard Spaven (drummer with Flying Lotus, José James and Gregory Porter) and is beginning to write the next Stuart McCallum album for Naim. "I'm really excited about the new record that I'm working on it's going to be a big step up from the foundations that were laid with Distilled, in terms of composition, production and guitar playing". 'Distilled Live' is definitely the triumphant closing paragraph in an exciting chapter in Stuart McCallum's career.
'An almost dream-like, filmic quality' - Hifi Choice * * * *
'Lush, orchestral samples, languid grooves and a sophisticated facility for channelling the chill...spiritual jazz masterpiece.' - Jazzwise * * * *
'Acoustic-guitar meditations turn slowly into tranquil funk'
'Lovely album Distilled' --Record Collector * * * *
'A yearning atmosphere...worth investing time in.' - BBC Music Magazine * * * *
Dreamy, trippy, downtempo instrumentals...the lush semi-orchestral settings.'