Freshly Cut Grass – Topiary
This album was the brainchild of Owain Hughes a recent graduate of the RWCMD (Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama) and member of Merthyr’s finest The Moonbirds. Having written and arranged the songs the album was then recorded remotely with fellow RWCMD students. One of the key defining characteristics of jazz, both live and in the studio, is the ability of musicians to spark off each other and take the listener on an unscripted journey; an impossibility during lockdown.
The quality of the music here is testimony to Hughes’ skills as a writer, arranger and perhaps most importantly his enthusiasm for the project and his ability to create a recording process that allows the musicians to shine and overcome the barriers that distanced recordings present. Performances are superb throughout with some particularly note-worthy moments such as the pure beauty of Daniel Newberry’s soprano sax on “Bipolar Jazz Overture” and Ross Hicks’ joyous and perfectly judged keys on “Funk Enigma”. Throughout the album both Ross Hicks’ (keys) and Owain Hughes (guitar) provide a solid platform which reaches its zenith on the full mind and body workout of “The Last Melon”. Another major success of the album are the exquisite vocals of Lee Nathaniel who is set to become the permanent vocalist with the ensemble. The strongest song on the album is without a doubt the smouldering and classy “London in his Eyes” featuring Bella Collins who is widely acknowledged as one of the best vocalists of her generation.
Owain Hughes deserves huge credit for putting this album together in nigh on impossible circumstances and making it such a creative success. In the dark days of a pandemic ‘Topiary’ gives huge reassurance that ‘come what may’ people will find a way to express themselves and celebrate being alive through the sheer joy of making music together.