Tom Allen-Graham 'Lake Tyers' - Review by Matt Hoyne
Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Lake Tyers -
Review ©Matt Hoyne, reposted with kind permission by the author
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Lake Tyers is a beautiful example of the commitment to a singular approach to music making, within which there is great detail and subtle variety. Without straying from the understated and restrained character of the album, Tom crafts sonic worlds with the careful thought that goes into each chord voicing, compositional structure, melodic choice and articulation. It’s not easy to create music that retains an overall sound and aesthetic that doesn’t start to sound a bit same-y after a few tunes and Lake Tyers seems to strike this balance with great artistry.
One might easily be tricked into thinking this was “just another jazz guitar trio record” with its restrained mood and quiet character. As a fellow guitar player, the thought of making a jazz guitar trio record in 2020 would make me nervous (only to be surpassed by the sheer terror of making a solo guitar album...yikes!). The weight of 65+ years of amazing (and many not so amazing…) guitar trio records is a difficult burden to bear. The sense of responsibility that comes with trying to “say something new” in this format would likely paralyze me from the elbows down. But Tom seems to take all of this in his stride, keeping a cool head and focusing on expressing a wide harmonic palette and open, conversational approach to the trio setting.
Each track offers a different perspective on Tom’s unique guitar technique, improvisational approach and compositional style. The imaginatively titled, The Beginning, opens the album working as a perfect introduction to the group and sound of the record; a slowly unfolding dialogue between Tom, Steve and Lewis that builds into the final melody statement. From the get go, you realise Tom is in no rush to prove his musical prowess, taking his time and leaving plenty of space for the music to breathe. This is magically apparent in the solo guitar intro and outro of Mud, in which Tom leaves beautiful silences between gently articulated chords and melodies that demonstrates great patience. You can hear the soft echoes and tails of the delay and reverb shimmering in these wide open spaces, the resulting effect a moment of repose that perfectly captures the mood of the song.
There’s some great swinging tunes like June and Dunes, on which the band stretch out a little more and give the album a soft push. However, it is the title track, Lake Tyers, that is the pick of the bunch: listening to it’s groovy, straight two-feel gives you the feeling that everything is going to be alright in the world. As you reach the end of the tune you realise that the song is screaming out for a tag and Tom doesn’t disappoint. It leaves me wondering why there aren’t more tags in modern jazz #bringbackthetag! Potential conspiracy theory: Tom’s initials spell out the word T.A.G. - coincidence I think not! #qanon #5G
Lake Tyers brims with genuine warmth; you get the sense that this music captures so much of Tom’s thoughts and personality. Each track combines to create a strong statement that belies comparison to other jazz guitarists - it is uniquely its own. This is no small feat in an era that sometimes feels like everything has been done before.