Infection in the Sentence - Sarah Tandy (Album Review)
Updated: Jun 6, 2019
Infection in the Sentence
8 March 2019
Album Rating 4 / 5
Live Potential 4 / 5
Solo Performances 5 / 5
Diversity in Songs 3.5 / 5
Favourite Songs Snake in the Grass, Timelord, Nursery Rhyme
Sarah Tandy’s debut album Infection in the Sentence is a formidable record that has introduced her as a very skilled piano player and band leader in the jazz scene; linking up with some of the scene’s other influential musicians, the 6-song album has demonstrated she has the potential to become a great success.
Tandy has grown in stature over the past few years, but before stepping in to the jazz scene she studied classical piano where she struggled to find the creativity to play music that really communicated who she was. Even after appearing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and as a finalist in BBC Young Musician of the Year, she focused on jazz during her English Literature degree at Cambridge University where she was inspired through listening to John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock amongst others.
Moving into jazz, she has had sessions with Nu Civilisation Orchestra, Maisha, Where Pathways Meet, Nerija and Daniel Casimir but has featured more prominently in trumpeter Camilla George’s recent projects and playing on some of SEED Ensemble’s tracks on their Driftglass album released last month. After her degree, Tandy involved herself in the London jazz scene which included a residency at Dalston’s Servant’s Jazz Quarters.
Through frequent jams there, she developed friendships with tenor saxophonist Binker Golding (Binker & Moses, Binker Golding & Elliot Galvin, Zara McFarlane), bassist Mutale Chashi (KOKOROKO, Jorja Smith) and drummer Femi Koleoso (Ezra Collective, Jorja Smith, Nubya Garcia) who all feature on this album. These three talented musicians alongside trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey (KOKOROKO, Nérija, Nubya Garcia, SEED Ensemble) makes the record appear to have the crème de la crème of London’s young Jazz musicians and all their performances measure up to that billing.
Opening track ‘Bradbury Street’ – dedicated to the street name of where she held her Servant’s Jazz Quarters residency – swings solidly with the bebop style sax and trumpet being pushed by Chashi’s bass at the start and accompanied by Tandy’s lively piano stabs. Maurice-Grey squeals out a triumphant solo followed equally by Golding and Tandy as we instantly see a glimpse of the high-calibre level of solos to come from the album. After a subtle and appropriate performance, Koleoso slaps his fills down at the end as we hear his well-renowned power come through.
‘Nursery Rhyme’s’ intro demonstrates the classical background of Tandy still eminent within her, but she moves the song beautifully towards the melody as Maurice-Grey plays some tantalising blows that purr and warm your heart. Tandy reprises her wonderful playing from the intro in her solo which is almost reminiscent of one of her influences, Oscar Peterson, and this continued in ‘Under the Skin’ as she chimes out notes whilst Koleoso’s drumming becomes lively with his use of the ride’s bell and toms more frequently. Another exquisite solo by Tandy is followed by Golding on the sax who weaves his phrases at a speed and ease like the wind blowing and changing direction in vociferous gusts.
Tandy’s use of the Rhodes piano in ‘Timelord’ creates an appetising amount of air for Golding to strut his riff through as Koleoso’s plays a quiet but jumpy groove alongside Chashi’s relaxed bass line. Whilst the keys pop up and down in dynamics, there’s a sense that Koleoso’s drums could enjoy more subtlety as shown in the first track to appreciate the gradual intensity of her solo. Golding livens the song up to Koleoso’s volume but then controls the ending with a real beauty. The use of the Rhodes in ‘Light/Weight’ again creates a gentle tone to the song alongside the cymbal rolls and laidback bass line as the track moves from once again, another Tandy solo matched by Golding’s sax solo in the second half of the song, a structure which maybe could have been changed around for some of the songs .
‘Snake in the Grass’ may owe its influences to Tandy’s performances with Jazz Jamaica as this reggae-dub track has Maurice-Grey and Golding locked in a bouncy boppy groove together backed by Koleoso’s forceful and deliberately accentuating use of the hi-hat, allowing Chashi’s underlying murky bass to give the song a heavy feel. Maurice-Grey's solo is punctured out strongly over the rhythm and Tandy‘s solo moves from the gritty dub feel to a very melodic Ahmad Jamal sound that moves delicately around the downbeat.
On the album, Tandy states “I feel like most of what I have ever learnt about music and life has been from the musicians I play with [...] when it came to writing my own music, one of the most important things was that it would leave room for everyone to express their own identities”. Whilst the group who feature on the album are key players integrated in the jazz scene, they all write and create their style of jazz in very different ways and trusting musicians she’s played with over time, she has allowed this freedom for self-expression to embody the album excellently. This freedom is clear with the standout tune of ‘Snake in the Grass’.
Tandy’s talent is obvious, but she never overplays or goes into show-off mode, displaying her sublime skills when necessary in solos. Golding maybe plays the role of supreme-soloist in this album but the quality of his playing only enhances the sound, as does the rest of the band’s input as they add power and energy throughout with some intricate moments to allow a breather from some fierce sections.
Infection in the Sentence is a mature and impressive debut that has displayed Tandy’s individual prowess on the piano in a very determined performance; she will surely be destined to achieve even more as she has exceeded in forging her own identity and style in the latest jazz scene.
Sarah Tandy – Piano (Tracks 1-3, 5), Keys (Tracks 4-6); Binker Golding – Tenor Saxophone (Tracks 1, 3-6); Sheila Maurice-Grey – Trumpet (Tracks 1, 2, 6); Mutale Chashi – bass; Femi Koleoso – Drums.