Iain Farrington and the Art Deco Trio’s ‘Classical Changes’ on SOMM


Picture this. You’re new to a school where your older brother has been in attendance for some years before. You’re not especially popular. At least not yet. This bothers you. But one break time you observe your brother seated at a piano keyboard, looking keenly at his pals playing musical instruments along with him. One’s a saxophonist, the other’s a clarinettist. They’re all playing vaguely familiar tunes crammed into an unusual beat. There are far more notes than you’ve ever heard before. There are chords that are new, chords that work just as well if not better. Him and his pals take you on a journey you’re not expecting, but the view still turns out to be quite nice. He knows what he’s doing. That’s the lasting impression you have of your sibling as you watch him and his pals jamming at break time.

Perhaps more importantly, you observe that lots of your peers are looking on with awe and wonder. This adoration offers a delicious opportunity to ride the coat tails of your effortlessly talented sibling, you gaining much-needed legitimacy in the process.

Such is the creativity and virtuosity that oozes the Art Deco Trio’s second album on SOMM. From beginning to end ‘Classical Changes’ is packed full of recognisable classical and operatic tunes each deliciously subverted with scorching virtuosity, riotous chord progressions, and flirtatious syncopations.

It’s classic Farrington. The cool talented sibling you wished you’d had upstairs in his bedroom transforming the hideousness of real life into something manageable and maybe even fun just by virtue of his and his pals musical dexterity.

Bite of the Flumblebee is an obvious concert-opening crowd-pleaser. In a similar way, Jiffy Dance (channelling Bizet’s Carmen) is a toe-tapping delight. Good to see an excerpt from Farrington’s awe-inspiring Beethoven centenary tribute (first seen in the BBC’s Beethoveniana) in Country Breaks too.

3AM Lullaby based on Brahms Wiegenlied is perhaps a bit too much for me to bear right now. It’s an arrangement (channelling the Vince Guaraldi Trio) that surfaces all the fear and vulnerability. I have to be on my guard listening to it. It’s gorgeous. It’s tender, fragile. delicate. Also devastating.

There are plenty of upbeat folksy tunes that can save me from the pits of despair and they do. But it is the resolute soul-infused Amazing Grace that pulls me back up, shoulders back, a determined smile stretching across my face. If you’re looking for a theme tune when you’re facing you’re biggest challenge, this is the one.