WELCOME to the weirdly wonderful world of Corrie Dick, a drummer who makes songs and generates textures as much as syncopation in his startlingly lyrical and idiosyncratic debut album, Impossible Things.
The album finds the Glasgow-born, Greenwich-based Dick, who was 2013’s Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year, leading a nine-strong band, including pianist Matt Robinson and Wurlitzer maestro Joe Webb, both of whom play with Dick in the trio Little Lions. The outfit also includes award-winning trumpeter Laura Jurd while the reeds chairs are taken by George Crowley and another Young Scottish Jazz Musician winner, Joe Wright. The line-up is completed by percussionist Felix Higginbottom, bassist Conor Chaplin and singer-violinist Alice Zawadzki.
The album, on the Chaos Collective label which Dick co-founded, derives its title from Alice in Wonderland, in which the White Queen declares: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” and, much like Lewis Carroll’s classic, when you venture into the beguiling soundscape of Impossible Things, you’re never quite sure what will happen next. How many jazz albums open with a poem – in this case Zawadzki’s “Soar”, which the singer declaims over pattering drums and moody keyboard, concluding over a clamour of drums, via a vigorous sax solo from Crowley? Curiouser and curiouser, as the second track, King William Walk, opens as a jog-along folk tune, with Zawadzki adding fiddle, to climax with a Caribbean carnivalesque rumpus.
“I’m trying to occupy territory somewhere between jazz, folk, world, free jazz and singer-songwriting,” the 24-year-old Dick tells me. “I don’t know if there’s a word for that yet – humanity, I suppose.”
The title track, Six Impossible Things, is a fascinating sound world in its own right, introduced by growling horns before Zawadzki’s superbly soaring and swooping vocals sing lines from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, arranged by Lauren Kinsella.
Paying credit to his bandmates, Dick describes Webb, the man at the Wurlitzer, as “the back seat star of the album”, adding distinctively to the colouration of the music. He also praises Joe Wright, pointing to the querulous solo he tears out of the fanfaring of Lock Your Heart Up.
Dick agrees that inveterate genre pigeonholers may have trouble with the album, but adds: “I’m just trying to play something that is inherently human and approachable, as well as being abstract at moments. It’s all about getting people in on the journey, absolutely not about alienating people.”
It’s certainly a diverting ride, as the band erupts at times with rumbustiousness reminiscent of Loose Tubes; or suspends a resonant stillness in Farewell Modhachaidh – a homage to Dick’s grandparents’ home, while Annamarrakech echoes the rhythms of North Africa, where Dick spent time learning from drumming masters – “a wonderful experience”.
• For more on Corrie Dick, visit www.chaos-collective.com. Due to demand, Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s Glen Miller Sound show in Glasgow tonight has been moved to City Halls