Profile for Mary James > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Mary James
Top Reviewer Ranking: 79,292
Helpful Votes: 51

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Mary James

Page: 1 | 2
Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple
Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple
Price: £5.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A practical and hopeful guide for everyone who has ever met a bereaved mother or couple, 15 Oct 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
You might pass this book by if you have not experienced the loss of a child, but pause for a moment and you realise that you have certainly encountered women who have miscarried. What did you say to her when she told you? The chances are, you felt uncomfortable and mumbled something, unable to look her in the eye. So this book is for everyone who wants to understand how to respond to women and couples in situations of bereavement. But it is especially useful for couples who have lost a child at any stage in their lives together. It combines plain language and accessible theory on grief with thoughtful exercises designed to help the reader reflect and understand why feel as they do - every emotion from anger to numbness. And the author reflects on her own situation so you identify with her. It is simply written and is easy to read.

The author is a relationship coach and grief recovery expert. She speaks from her own experience as the mother of twin girls, the youngest of whom died aged three days, when she too sought help following her loss. The chapters are short and you can read them in any order, just pick what feels right for you. I especially found the chapter on being a supporter of grieving parents very useful - it lists things not to say or do. And offers suggestions for things to say and do. They aren't obvious. In the end the book was very hopeful. We learn that out of sadness, it is possible to build a meaningful life, cherish remaining children and honour the memory of those passed, and feel joy and happiness while remembering the lost child. No-one says it is easy but is certainly worth trying.

The Lost Moose
The Lost Moose
Price: £7.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An atmospheric journey through a gentle landscape, 12 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Lost Moose (MP3 Download)
I am not a synesthete but for me The Lost Moose by the Alex Jønsson 3 is delicate shades of landscape grey, aqua and moss, and it has the same effect as a very fine woollen sweater, its absense of weight deceptive. The subtle fairy-tale-feel album cover probably stimulated this response even before I heard the first notes. The Lost Moose is the debut album by Danish guitarist Alex Jønsson, who is joined by Lars Greve on clarinet and saxophone, and Christian Windfeld on drums. The opening track sets the tone, you wonder if you are hearing a lute rather than a guitar, there is a 16th century melancholy feel in the first minute and it never leaves you till the last note of Näkemiin, (Til we meet again). It's a pilgrimage, we pass through the ancient capital and see a Gothic cathedral, spend idyllic time in tiny remote villages and islands, relish food, experience vertigo, run out of painkillers and say goodbye to those we meet on the road. A timeless road trip rendered in muted colours. Its minimalism is its strength, you can appreciate each delicate sound. Everything is pared back, slowed down. I can imagine words to these lovely tunes, a voice complementing the clarinet. It is not all quietness: in Afraid of heights I do feel I am looking over the edge, it's quite scary, the earth seems to shake, the guitar and drums a shock after the gentleness.

This is a very beautiful album which succeeds perfectly in creating a consistent and sustained atmosphere through a very rich palate of sounds (or subtle colours). Alex is part of Foyn Trio!, a delightfully quirky jazz crossover band where he plays guitar and backing vocals, and their Joy Visible was nominated for a Danish Music Award. With this pedigree behind him already, in The Lost Moose he has created a distinctive distant world, one in which to lose yourself, one which leaves you enriched by its gentleness and space. Highly recommended.

Price: £12.65

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magical experience, an insight into deep friendship, 11 Jun 2013
This review is from: Insight (Audio CD)
This is an undeniably romantic album, absolutely perfect for summer garden listening. Acoustic guitars are usually romantic, reminders of holidays in the sun. But this album by Polish guitarist Maciek Pysz is vastly superior to those memories. It is worth listening to on so many levels. First the compositions - eight by Maciek and one jointly composed. They combine very strong melodies with deep human attractiveness and engagement. When you listen to them, you instantly understand their sentiments - whether they are about the loneliness of city life, or loss, or in the wonder of looking at the sky, or the joy of friendship. This is insight into Maciek's life so far, it is deeply personal and quite moving in its honesty.

Then you listen to the communication between the artists. Maciek is joined by Asaf Sirkis on drums and Yuri Goloubev on double bass. He has played with these artists for many years and this album perfectly illustrates the benefits and inspiration of long term partnerships. Maciek's playing is flawless, it takes your breath away with magical sounds conjured from steel and nylon. But the communication goes deeper than the technical, it has the ability to connect with the listener. Yuri is a supreme master of lyrical bass playing, no tune is rendered more delicate than under his fingers or bow, the bass sings. Asaf is a magician, he creates sounds like trickling water, pattering footsteps, fire crackers.

Together they are quite extraordinarily enjoyable, their nimbleness, their lightness of touch is joyful, the result of years of insight into each other. Play this to people who say they don't know anything about jazz, or have been put off. The recording, mastering and mixing is perfect, you can hear fingers twist on frets, no instrument dominates any other. You don't want this album to end, it is a perfect summer's day.
Highly recommended.

Seven Hills
Seven Hills
Price: £6.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime sparkling Scandinavian piano trio set for very great things, 3 Jun 2013
This review is from: Seven Hills (MP3 Download)
There was a very strong likelihood that the Finnish pianist Alexi Tuomarila could have become a professional tennis player had he not discovered Miles Davis and gone on to study in Brussels where he won many prizes. In Alexi's sparkling fingering I detect that those piano equivalents of tennis essentials - gracefulness, nimble footwork, sensitivity to the moment and delicacy of touch - are in use here in abundance. I imagine a Roger Federer performance, no pressure visible, footwork (or fingers) skimming the ground. When Alexi's career hit a dark patch, titles such as Bone Yard Jive and My Dark Hours hint at the desolation within but now, on Edition Records, he returns to dazzling sunlight with this beautiful album.

He is joined by Mats Eilertsen on bass (Tord Gustavsen Trio and Mats' own bands, most recently on the exquisite Sails Set) and Olavi Louhivuori on drums (leader of Oddarrang amongst other excellent projects), and on a couple of tracks by Portuguese guitar player André Fernandes.

There are very strong melodies, some hymn-like (Miss), others have a Monk-tinge (Visitor Q), all demonstrate perfect understanding between this trio. The guitar seems to be used (on Prologue and Ceremony) to set up tension,the drums contorted like thunder, but always the piano brings us back to serenity. On Jibeinia, we have the delicate tracery of an extinct fossil bird, a feathered dinosaur set out in Mats' bass, the piano wistfully trilling a possible call for this long-gone creature.

All the tracks are standout. but I must draw attention to Cyan by Olavi where the trio is at its most etheral. It could be a lullaby for a sleepy child or the remembrance of a perfect summer day, the drums are like rustling silk.

I saw Alexi with this trio at Warwick Arts Centre in January 2013. We can only hope Alexi tours the UK later this year, more people need to experience his sublimely contemplative intensity for themselves. Game, Set and Match to Mr Tuomarila.

Facing North - Claudio Filippini Trio
Facing North - Claudio Filippini Trio
Price: £15.24

5.0 out of 5 stars A magical meeting of three great musicians, 19 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
From the moment you handle the CD case and carefully extract the liner notes, you know you are in for a very classy, modish experience with this trio comprised of Italian pianist Claudio Filippini, Swedish bass player Palle Danielsson and Finnish drummer Olavi Louhivouri. The glossy paper of the notes, the delightful stickers of album covers (far too beautiful to actually stick on anything), the mix of near-sepia and delicate colour photographs and, most satisfying of all, exquisite essays by Claudio and Daniela Floris.

All these features whet our appetite even before we listen. We read how Claudio couldn't believe he had been asked to play with two idols he had never met. How he was passing through a troubled period as a composer, how suddenly the very thought of working with Palle and Olavi strengthened and focussed him, like a compass pointing to the only true direction where you can align yourself - North - Facing North. Immediately we empathise with Claudio's dilemma and anguish, and rejoice in its joyful resolution. And we are grateful for Daniela's quiet shyness at being in their presence while recording, when she was dazzled by beauty, yet able to describe a wonderful experience to us.

Then you listen, holding your breath, hoping your expectations will be fulfilled. And they are, immeasurably. The overwhelming impression this album leaves you with is joy. From the happy, smiling, cover photo to the final chord, this album is suffused with love, hope and a sense that strength, once received, never leaves you. There are six beautiful compositions by Claudio, a Henry Mancini, two Gershwins, the best Brian Wilson song ever (God Only Knows) and Adele's song Chasing Pavements. The piano is a beautifully toned Steinway from the 1920s, the studio sound is warm and calm.

Maybe it is not co-incidental that the opening track is Nothing to Lose with its subtle, cautious start, then growing confidence. The heart-breaking bass leaves you in no doubt that this is a very special session, this track was recorded in one take. The title track Facing North sings and swings, suffused with Bill Evans-like gentle harmonies, as if Palle brought something of the master with him from 1965 Stockholm and Claudio has picked it up, so subtly. Everything is subtle and ethereal on this album, as if you can't quite believe it is happening. They recorded it in low lighting and that must have added to the atmosphere. Landscape opens with a shimmering terrain, gently rolling hills traced by the piano while the bass glides and soars serenely above it like a bird. This is a luxurious verdant landscape, nothing jarring here. The subtle use of the celesta adds a magical icy touch to several tracks like Sonatina and Soaking and Floating.

What can you say about God only knows? The most perfect pop song ever written and here given a brittleness and fragility with ironic opening chords. Adele's ambiguous Chasing Pavements is accorded great reverence, it is a lovely tune, rendered timeless here. Upbeat Modern Times closes the album sending us away feeling strong, optimistic, refreshed.

Claudio has indeed proved that he had nothing to lose and everything to gain in this perfect album. Highly recommended. I must thank Ermanno Basso for making it happen.

Ambiguous play
Ambiguous play
Price: £5.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Melodic late night jazz from Norway, 19 May 2013
This review is from: Ambiguous play (MP3 Download)
The Norwegian jazz scene is vibrant, confident, accessible and great to listen to. So an album by a quintet called Esp led by Trondheim guitarist, Espen Bjarnar, is worthy of our attention. Ambiguous Play is Esp's debut album on Øra Fonogram and consists of six very assured, individually different, tracks. The band started out as Espen's Master's project several years ago but has fledged into a mature outfit of great sensitivity and imagination. The project was to explore how ambiguity can be expressed in music but there is nothing ambiguous about the deftness of touch here, it feels and sounds absolutely right. So whether they are exploring the moment or musing on eternity as in Hmm, Esp create memorable pictures in sound. Each track has many layers, like translucent silk, they slide over each other and create many different shades.

There are some very definite moods - in the beautiful opening track, Hmm.., all the instruments intertwine in a gentle, rather sad, slow dance. Upbeat Møllenberg is particularly catchy, reminding me a little of Steely Dan. Møllenberg is a district of Trondheim, perhaps a hymn to home turf and the life lived there? It's affectionate anyway, the guitar is picked so nimbly and delicately it really does perform a vocal role on this track, the rhodes sounding like vibes.

In between sadness and hometown fondness we have the eerie Norhug, with haunting sax like a shepherd in a desert, calling lost sheep. Here we are entering the world of ambiguity and anxiety, it ends on a note of uncertainty. Dim takes us into outer space eternity again. Not all the album is contemplative, Messi allows Espen's guitar free rein. This is an effective foil to the quieter tracks. If you like Troyka, then you will find lots to enjoy in both Dim and Messi.

If you wonder who is a possible heir to Tord Gustavsen then look no further than Arne Torvik for his exquisite introduction to Toogtredve Takter and his birdsong in Hmm.

This is a late night album that is perfect for any time of day! Heartily recommended.

Titanic for a Bike
Titanic for a Bike
Price: £21.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite, romantic chamber jazz from a Russian master, 11 April 2013
This review is from: Titanic for a Bike (Audio CD)
I imagine that every musician has a favourite instrument, and also a least favourite one, an instrument that they do battle with and try in vain to master. Fortunately for us, the double bass on Titanic for a Bike by Yuri Goloubev falls into the former camp. It is a Hungarian Janos Bogdany bass and has the sweetest sound in the hands of this Russian bass player who now lives in Italy. Yuri came to jazz from a very successful classical career in Russia. He calls jazz his "true call" and since 2001 he has played all over the world with many famous artists.

Having seen Yuri with John Law last November at the QEH during the London Jazz Festival and more recently with Alex Hutton in a tiny venue in Stratford, I am struck by his modest, unassuming stance in performance despite his staggering pedigree as prize winner and Professor. He is mesmeric on stage, his gaze focussed, he frowns in concentration yet his fingers tell you that his technique is natural and effortless. You are swept away by his lyricism and the gorgeous sound whether his is barely skimming the strings or playing very fast indeed. He takes a delight in beautiful instruments. Talking about venues with pianos, I told him that the Parabola in Cheltenham has a Fazioli, and his eyes lit up with joy!

This lovely album consists of ten tracks - eight by Yuri, one by long-standing collaborator, Asaf Sirkis, and one arrangement. Yuri and Asaf are joined by Julian Argüelles on sax and Claudio Filippini on piano. It is a wonderful combination, no-one dominates, there is a chamber feel. The sound is clear, like mountain air. Claudio Filippini is a revelation (to me) on piano, a lyrical pianist who I will enjoy discovering on his recent album with Olavi Louhivuori and Palle Danielsson, Facing North. Julian's delicate reedy soprano is showed to advantage in the intricate soaring melodies in four tracks.

The opening track Sailing (by Asaf) sets a romantic tone with a serene opening between gently rocking piano and a bass melody that floats and soars. The title track refers to a real life situation of a cyclist wearing headphones singing along to the Titanic movie theme at the top of his voice, an odd image! It is a great track with a sawing bass creating tension - will this bike crash? Another track is called Bill Gates Amongst Us, a reference to a former Windows start-up sound played by Julian Argüelles. There is a quirky, eccentric feel to the titles and a personal touch to the liner notes. Other tracks are unashamedly romantic and Russian in feel - love stories, waltzes, remembrances of Schloss Elmau. This album has very quickly become a favourite of mine for its heavenly melodies, gentleness and tranquility.

Yuri often plays with John Law or Alex Hutton, both of whom are touring this year (2013). If you can, see Yuri live, he is intense and unforgettable.

Birds - Marius Neset
Birds - Marius Neset
Price: £7.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem in the Edition Records catalogue, 25 Mar 2013
This review is from: Birds - Marius Neset (Audio CD)
So, just how do you follow up a five star album and rave reviews for your live performances? Well, with another five star album of course. And that's what Marius Neset has done with Birds, released shortly on Edition Records. If anything, Birds is even more joyous and expansive than Golden Xplosion, the cover photo of a leaping-for-joy Marius does more than hint at his energy and youth, it proclaims that being alive is the most precious thing we all have. There are tracks of exuberance and tracks as delicate as a feather, they fuse and meld creating a very satisfying mix. When you have listened to this album, I dare you not to feel happy and optimistic.

Marius has assembled a super-group - the flawless members of Phronesis plus Jim Hart on vibes. And a supporting crew that includes an accordion, his sister Ingrid (a flute virtuoso) and Daniel Herskedal (recently heard with Marius on Neck of the Woods which I reviewed last year). Marius composed all the compositions, it is through-composed and he knew exactly what it would sound like before it was recorded. Yet each musician sounds himself, nothing is forced or artificial. Maybe it is because they can read each other's minds?

Bird sounds, motifs and allusions infuse this album from the triumphant and joyous title track to the close. All the rhythms of a bird's life are here from quiet feeding to noisy roosting. Take the climax to Reprise - you can hear a flock of birds taking off, thousands of flapping wings, then suddenly they are gone, it makes your spine tingle! There are birds that sound like parrots or parakeets. Jasper's bass is a strong, strutting crow in Birds, yet warm in The Place of Welcome alongside Jim's most delicate vibes. Ivo's piano is a nightingale's song at twilight.

The celestial, moving, Math of Mars is like looking into a starry sky, a myriad galaxies stretch out for ever, it is a wonderful near-climax to an album which teems with gems and gently slides into the closing Fanfare with military drum beat and reeds. All the glossy birds line up for a farewell, they trill, preen themselves. whistle, squawk, bicker raucously and show off in glorious colour. It's fantastic fun and we are so fortunate to eavesdrop on it.

Yatra - Ivo Neame
Yatra - Ivo Neame
Price: £14.96

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The artist finds his voice, 1 Oct 2012
This review is from: Yatra - Ivo Neame (Audio CD)
Yatra is Ivo Neame's latest work on Edition Records. Yatra means pilgrimage or journey, the perfect word to describe a musician's search for his own voice. We have waited quite a while for this album as Ivo's last in his own name was 2009, Caught in the Light of Day. I am more used to seeing Ivo in smaller bands - with Phronesis, Josh Arcoleo, Kairos 4Tet and Marius Neset's Golden Xplosion so a work with eight musicians (and no standards to call on) felt on the face of it, well, rather audacious, risky and brave.

But having seen Ivo's Octet on stage twice - first in February this year in the Purcell Room and then more recently in the sympathetic environment of Kings Place, the word audacious is wrong - it wasn't risky at all, it feels very natural now. In February I thought "There are moments of genius in this, what a lovely complex sound but I can still follow it"; in March I heard Ivo's quintet in Sherborne and listened to the buzz afterwards ("That was the best gig we've had in Sherborne for ages"); and recently I thought "Wow, this has grown up a lot".

Yatra consists of nine tracks, all by Ivo, with band members listed below. The most obvious point of connection to his 2009 quartet is Jim Hart on vibes and Jasper Høiby on bass, providing the solid foundation on which to add the new layer of four reeds and an accordion. The result is an explosion of colour and texture, richness and depth. The reeds add a romantic layer which combined with vibes give it a very beautiful sound best heard on Heart Murmurs.

All the tracks stand alone but my favourite is That Syncing Feeling. It has the loveliest, achingly subtle melody on clarinet, a purring gently bouncing bass and sparce piano setting the tone. The reeds section is at its most sublime, serene and cool. In my mind I see a girl leaving home, she looks back over her shoulder and sees the boy at the window wistfully gazing after her, but she keeps walking. It feels sad. I like that. But then Ivo pushes us into the circus/fairground with Owl of me, with its funny noises and quirky dance rhythms. He's playing with us! Moody seems to continue the circus feel, with more squeaks and hoots, clip-clops like a horse, it all feels a bit insane, suggesting psychological ups and downs, but then the tune breaks through which you will hum for days. It's very clever.

I think the genius of this album is that Ivo has a light touch with his fellow musicians. You are never aware of solos, it's not formulaic, it's democratic but not obviously so, it works as an ensemble. It ebbs and flows naturally, nothing is forced.

Ivo has arrived at the end of this particular journey. I'm very pleased that he has found his own distinctive voice: witty, modest, serious, cerebral, poetic and self-deprecating, but also fun. It's fabulous.

You can read my other reviews on my jazz blog at

Congregation: The Art of Sound Vol. 4
Congregation: The Art of Sound Vol. 4
Price: £13.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding album by a British pianist who deserves to be heard more widely, 27 Aug 2012
There are several tracks on this exquisite album which remind me of the subtle, calm world of a Vermeer painting. Much of this album is understated, from the ghostly cathedral on the cover, the limited pallet of colours on the sleeve, the carefully chosen photograph of the artists wearing toning shades of grey. Much of the joy of a Vermeer is standing as close to it as the gallery attendants will let you stand, and entering its gentle world of reflection, quiet study, order and shared secrets and then drifting away from it, the colours and atmosphere engrained in your memory to be enjoyed long afterwards.

And so it is with John Law's Congregation the art of sound volume 4. Unlike Vermeer whose paintings are few, John has a large discography of piano trio works and solo albums. Perhaps the title " the art of sound " is a tribute to Brad Mehldau whose Art of the Trio albums marked his development over several years? But John is more than an English Brad Mehldau, he has a very distinctive voice and you can hear it most clearly in volume 4 of this series. He has created an exceptional trio in Sam Burgess on bass and Asaf Sirkis in drums.

When you first listen to this album you will notice the extrovert tracks, most notably the title track Congregation. I defy you not to want to leap around the room during this one. This is not a trio of three separate musicians, no, they work as one. Even when one player has the limelight you are aware of the others, right there, just a millisecond behind, they pass the tunes around as skillfully as footballers, never let it falter for a moment. Trap Clap is a witty piece with subtle effects (clapping, fuzzy piano).

All the tracks stand alone. Three Part Invention is a homage to Bach and a perfect one at that.. But for me the real joy of this album are the works that remind me of Vermeer - The Ghost in the Oak and Watching, Waiting (for Tom Cawley). These are works of the heart as well as the brain. John is not just a clever pianist, he creates works which move you. They repay close scrutiny with your mind but also with your heart. The Ghost in the Oak is heartbreakingly beautiful. The bass sounds like a cello, the percussion ticks, the piano mesmerises you like the ebb and flow of the sea. You are in a quiet room and you never want to leave.

Watching, Waiting ( for Tom Cawley) is a gem. There are many layers of delicate sound, from the ripple of the piano, the lovely melody on bass to the magical, fairytale tinkle of glockenspiel. Then these delicate strata come crashing up against piano and percussion then just as quickly subside - it's a masterpiece, giving you more to listen to each time.

John Law, piano, clapping
Sam Burgess, double bass
Asaf Sirkis, drums, percussion, glockenspiel, darbuka
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2013 10:43 PM BST

Page: 1 | 2