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Helen Sherrah-Davies | StarStuff

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United States - Mass. - Boston

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Jazz: Modern Creative Jazz World: World Fusion Moods: Type: Improvisational
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by Helen Sherrah-Davies

Trans-stylistic, Jazz infected originals by five string Violinist. An evocative soul-journey between the worlds and into the realm of your own Imagination...
Genre: Jazz: Modern Creative Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. StarStuff
8:07 $0.99
2. It's Kinda Odd
4:32 $0.99
3. Kat Kopanica
6:30 $0.99
4. Demon-Eyes
7:29 $0.99
5. Ever-Returning Light
8:42 $0.99
6. Lullaby For Lost Time
6:01 $0.99
7. Becket's Bones
6:17 $0.99
8. Bling
11:13 $0.99
9. Dead Reckoning
2:47 $0.99
10. Pathfinder
4:24 $0.99
11. Spirit Line
3:24 $0.99
12. Nazka
4:45 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

Helen Sherrah-Davies’ original works are trans-stylistic, jazz-infected, with a vibrant electric and acoustic mix, full of unexpected tone colors and sonorities. Her musical landscapes focus on storytelling, bathing the listener in prisms of sound. Darol Anger, acclaimed fiddler, has described Helen’s music as “so strong, it approaches the status of a new sentient being…. Even in the most thorny, complex episodes, we are moved to care, laugh and rejoice, washed by waves of melodic love.”

“We are the stuff of stars,” writes Helen in her notes to the StarStuff CD. Tapping into what she terms “cosmic rhythm,” she aims for big-hearted expression and bold narratives, impelling listeners to imagine “standing on top of some great universal mountain observing the newly formed celestial landscape.”

Drawing on the improvisational freedom of jazz while incorporating rhythmic and formal devices from Bulgarian, Middle Eastern and other traditions, Helen follows a path of “eclectic inspiration, disparate sonic influences and the realm of the Imagination.” On StarStuff, her uncommonly rich tenor notes on five-string violin mesh beautifully with Maeve Gilchrist’s harp, Bryan Baker’s incendiary guitar, the multilayered percussion of Jamey Haddad and Keita Ogawa and more.

Helen’s pieces are inspired in turn by the harmonic genius of Wayne Shorter (“Bling”) and the plight of indigenous peoples (“Ever-Returning Light”); the eerie, otherworldly cries of wolves (“Pathfinder”) and the spiritual legacies of Thomas à Becket and Hildegard of Bingen (“Becket’s Bones”). “Music should be about communication,” says Helen. “On StarStuff there are lots of different voices but hopefully a unified spirit.”



to write a review

Neal Richardson, Splash Point Music UK

Richly beautiful album. In a league-of-its-own brilliance. *****
Helen Sherrah-Davies: Starstuff (HSD01) 2009
Review by Neal Richardson, UK Feb 2010

This richly-beautiful American CD from ex-pat British virtuoso violinist/composer Helen Sherrah-Davies is an explosion of creativity and ideas, comprising a brilliantly quirky mix of genres, diverse cultural influences, and intensity. Both playful and disturbing, the complex writing and playing are extraordinary and of the highest calibre, making up a journey that is at times challenging but constantly inspiring, always staying just on the right side of taste and indulgence, with some knockout melodies and grooves. Undoubtedly jazz in its improvisational spirit, the CD takes in blues, rock, prog rock, fusion, funk, contemporary classical, celtic folk, plus middle eastern, indian, native american and far eastern rhythms, blended perfectly together in Helen's apparently-inexhaustible and delightful musical imagination. Throw in an already-rich life's experience so far, a couple of twists of Stockhausen, Tchaikovsky, Pink Floyd, some enigmatic lyrics and real-wolf-cries and you begin to appreciate the sheer breadth of the soundscape of this project.

A finer example of a searing emotional and intellectual expose of a musical soul I cannot think of. It's up there with the greats. I challenge anyone to listen to this without having their life and musical perceptions changed for the better, or their soul enriched.

Track Detail
1. From an unsettling beginning signifying the Big Bang - thirty seconds of white noise chaos created on real instruments - the title track Starstuff brings in a nice groove, with a swirling violin solo, a light and fluid piano solo, a synth solo - whose sound may be retro but whose notes certainly are not - before a gutsy distorted-guitar sweeps all aside with such ferocity it elicits swooping high sighs from the violin like a swallow. It's like the best Stern, McLaughlin, even Camel, Mahavishnu… ultimately disintegrating into a sea shore which washes us into…

2. The appropriately-titled song It's Kinda Odd, with it's almost reggae-like string-section groove, harp jazz-solo (yes really - it works!), with a lovely vocal line, and the haunting background whispers of 'Systole… Diastole' giving way to an unexpected middle-eastern rhythm with a great sax solo.

3. Birdsong introduces another off-kilter time-signature rhythm with a noodling bass guitar, which transforms into Kat Kopanica - a fab fusion of celtic, oriental (Turkish I think) and blues mania… even ending up with two cats miaowing. Yes this is nuts, but disarmingly so.

4. Demon Eyes: The darkest point - an aural depiction of a worst nightmare, a twisted Roald Dahl-esque world of diminished chords, chromatic runs and even Deep Purple-style grind - a challenge, but summoning up all too well both Helen's and the listener's secret fears…

5. Ever-Returning Light: The resolution, having had the tension we are relieved and rested by a most beautiful piano motif, setting up a glorious dancing, glancing duet between violin and guitar. As throughout the CD, there is subtle, supportive, sensitive drumming/percussion, with unexpected. complex rhythms going on almost unnoticed. There is an eventual resolution into a triumphant denouement.

6. Lullaby: Another gentle, gorgeous clearing-in-the-forest moment, with an uplifting pentatonic melody, in the hands of a master band. The themes of Life and Death run deep in this CD - the very stuff of existence.

7. Becket's: A gong and a slow, lugubrious violin signal a flight of fancy, this time into a sort of drunken reel… in 5/4, with the Mr Becket's Bones represented by an occasional pantomime-rattle of temple blocks. Fiddle and sax simultaneously sweep around the harmony, fading to that unhinged guitar again...

8. Bling. A synth-funk workout, but with the light and shade of The Yellowjackets, with a vibraphone taking the solo spot.

9. We're plunged back into the disturbed side of human psyche again with Dead Reckoning, which sonically has echoes of early Floyd, Genesis et al, also tantalising with flashes of the genius violin-playing that is appropriate and never bragging. Sherrah-Davies is apparently always happy to focus on the "whole", never showcasing her undoubted technical skills just for the sake of it.

10. The last three tracks are listed as forming "The Pathfinder Suite", inspired by a trip to a Reservation in south-western America. The first, Pathfinder, starts with wolves howling, duetting with Helen's violin, the latter rich in tone, with melodic moments reminiscent of Tchaikovsky's Concerto in D, but then descending into a disturbing discord of clashing 7th intervals.

11. Spirit Line: Gamelan bells usher in more exposed violin, masses of space and unease and soulful longing, with some effectively-deployed digital delay increasing the spacial effect, with the bells ending up sounding an eerie minor third reminiscent of a WWII air raid siren.

12. Nazka: A distant radio playing, more gamelan, noise and the Pathfinder rhythm coming back in… A fade out once more to the final supine howls… and the listener stopped in their tracks.

Helen Sherrah-Davies is a Brit living ex-pat in the U.S., having followed a first-class British music education with 5 years at Berklee and the New England Conservatoire. Thus she has enlisted the talents of world-class american players on this record, and her extraordinary talents as a contemporary composer, arranger and player are shown to full and stunning effect.

In a league-of-its-own brilliance. *****

Mimi Rabson

Compelling entry into a new universe
Helen's exquisite playing and dazzling compositions draw you into her unique world. Her music defines new soundscapes that are familiar enough to welcome you in but unusual enough to arouse your curiosity. Don't be afraid - the journey will enrich you.

Jenny Terras

Phenomenal Creativity from the Soul
StarStuff is the product of an exceptionally creative spirit. Helen challenges her listeners to move beyond their ordinary perceptions and ways of hearing and to embrace that which lies beyond.
Listen-and be inspired to make your own journey with StarStuff.