Fiona Joy doubles down on the beautiful songs from her 2015 release, Signature – Solo, by bringing in guest musician to help open them up and “fully realize” them on Signature -Synchronicity. Often, I would hesitate to review a kind of re-do/remix of something I’d already written about, but this is more like a re-celebration of those solo pieces, and the roster of guest musicians–including Will Ackerman, Eugene Friesen, Jeff Oster, Tony Levin, and more–is a pretty potent draw. For this album, Fiona re-recorded her piano lines at her home in Australia, and much of the additional work was done at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road studios in Vermont. The differences between the two albums are quite subtle. (In some cases, quite honestly, I had to go back and check my library to make sure I hadn’t just reloaded Signature – Solo.) She doesn’t have the guests take over these pieces, she has them gently accent what’s already there. On “Grace,” for example, a song which she has now covered four times–including twice on this album–Oster’s fluegelhorn, Freisen’s cello, and tárogató (a woodwind) from Paul Jarman all slip in beneath the leading piano and vocals at different points. Their contribution is smooth enough not to ripple the song’s still, crystalline surface. A snappier “chill” version of the song appears later, upbeat and bright, with percussion from Jeff Haynes and guitar lines coming from (I believe) both Ackerman on acoustic and Marc Shulman on electric. Once again, these extras fold nicely into the song like they had been there all along. The revision of “From the Mist,” one of my favorites from Solo, more fully realizes its classical music soul with the addition of strings and Irish whistle. It retains its delicacy, and its pause-friendly structure, where each hesitation is like a stop in a dancer’s step and the next moment, its continuation. The whistle and strings seem to bring a more organic sense to the piece, and it’s lovelier than ever. Fiona’s dreamy vocals on “Once Upon Impossible” are as ephemeral as a warm breath on a cold morning, there but for a moment and fading. The piano here has a music box feel, each note its own statement, winding down in places where Fiona again perfectly uses the meaningfulness of a pause. On “Fair Not” the additional instrumentation comes on much stronger, driving the piece’s internal emotion to dramatic heights, giving its story more of an arc than ever. Strings from Freisen and violinist Rebecca Daniel push this along, appearing at first in a gentle accompaniment to the piano, as though taking its hand to lead it to this more vivid place. Fiona teases the piece’s newfound power a few times before bringing the heft of the ensemble fully into play. Tom Eaton adds moments of thunderous percussion toward the end. A powerful piece that, while lovely as a solo, really finds its voice here.
Signature – Synchronicity is a perfect complement to the original album in the series, adding to the beauty of each song without overpowering or over-rethinking them. The gentle addition of fresh sonic colors to an already complete work is handled intelligently and respectfully, and everything here benefits from it. Superb contemporary instrumental work from a cast of top genre talent.
Available from Little Hartley Music.