An album review: Ant Law and Alex Hitchcock – Same Moon in the Same World (Outside In Music) Release date 4/11/22

With hindsight a clue as to this album’s identity is in Rob Blackman’s striking album cover photo of saxophonist Alex Hitchcock and guitarist Ant Law, a sliver of moon hanging in the sky above them, also in the album title Same Moon in the Same World. These words are from Haruki Murakami’s 1999 magical realist novel Sputnik Sweetheart, with its themes of (amongst others) relationships, identity and loneliness which resonate with the covid-related social restrictions of recent times. Indeed, with our Zoom calls we might enjoy multiple connections across distances, notwithstanding such contacts often feeling not quite the real thing.

This album is an exemplar of what can be done with a good grasp of the current technology developed partly thanks to social distancing: with travel and same-room rehearsal not possible, Law and Hitchcock had to record their multiple guest artists remotely.

And an impressive list of guests it is, their calibre a reflection of their hosts’: drummers Eric Harland, Jeff Ballard, Kendrick Scott and Sun-Mi Hong; bassists Linda May Han Oh and Ben Williams; pianist Shai Maestro; vibraphonist Joel Ross; and Tim Garland on bass clarinet. Despite the tracks’ changing line-ups, a sense of the artists closely minding each other is evident, each guest fitting seamlessly into their respective roles.

In contrast to its meditational almost numinous overall feel, the album has a well-defined structure. Starting with Hitchcock, the composer credits alternate for eight tunes, with the final, ninth track a loving presentation by Law and Hitchcock of John Coltrane’s beautiful After The Rain.

The first two tracks set the tone, the compositions from both composers being intelligent and never over-stated. Hitchcock’s lyrical sax in Outliers contrasts beautifully with Harland’s crisp drumming, while Law’s Haven’t Meta Yet packs in a great deal, the two leaders taking turns to showcase their chops and Harland contributing some satisfyingly adventurous rhythms.

In track three, Low Glow, pianist Maestro’s mindful maunderings lead to some trading with the sax, whence the two intertwine attractively, but are kept well- grounded by drummer Ballard’s pleasingly lumbering gait. Meanwhile Scott does the drumming honours with sensitivity in Third I, delicate guitar and piano offering a nevertheless secure structure under writhing sax.

But rather than sharing further notes about the rest of the tracks, suffice to say that if you value an album that is soothing, cleverly subtle and with the fireworks presented in modicum, this might well become one of your favourite albums this year as it has for this writer. Although not ‘Easy Listening,’ it is easy to listen to, and bears repeated listening.

And should there be a film of Sputnik Sweetheart, here’s the perfect soundtrack.

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