Christine Tobin has proved
herself as a jazz <http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/jazz>
musician, a songwriter and as a Leonard Cohen interpreter of distinction.
She is also a generous collaborator, lending her warm vocals to projects as
different as Don Paterson's Lammas, Harvey Brough's Requiem in Blue and Crass
Tapestry Unravelled is possibly her most personal album to date – a duo with
pianist Liam Noble. Yet it may also be her most accessible, comprising songs
from Carole King's Tapestry. This archetypal singer-songwriter LP is packed with
hits, many of them recognisable to people whose parents weren't even teenagers
when King wrote Will You Love Me Tomorrow.
Each of Tapestry's songs seems to encapsulate a specific feeling: first love,
homesickness, optimism, regret, friendship. King's original recordings were
played and sung simply. Working with the blueprints created by King and her
collaborators, Tobin and Noble make fresh new shapes: a barnstorming Beautiful;
the gospelly You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman; a moving, almost classical
reading of So Far Away.
King's songs have rarely been treated as jazz material. Noble's arrangements
avoid the cliched "ching-ching" of 70s singer-songwriter piano,
finding space for reharmonisations and delicious passing notes in King's moody
chords. Live in the intimate 606 Club, both musicians resisted the temptation to
make Tapestry Unravelled overly cerebral. The hard-won musicality packed into
songs such as I Feel The Earth Move was more emotionally direct than any number
of long improvisations.
The duo performed a handful of non-King songs, including Milton Nascimento's
Ponta de Areia, Steve Swallow's setting of Robert Creeley's She Was Young, and a
gorgeous reading of the Gershwins' Embraceable You. But the main event was
the way Tobin found something fresh, affecting and deeply human in King's
timeless pop music.