Toby Hay & David Ian Roberts – harp and guitar improvisations
Cambrian Records – October 1, 2021
Wales-based record label Cambrian Records is now in its 7th year; During this time they took a nice trip with us with Toby Hay, the driving force behind the label. We had unique offers from Toby and Jim Ghedi, David Ian Roberts, Sky Barkers, Rusalnaia (Sharron Kraus & Gillian Chadwick), Duski and Gavin Prior.
The latest offering is an impromptu two-part session by Toby Hay and David Ian Roberts, recorded just weeks before the first lockdown in 2020. The year before, Toby and David released a three-part improvisation entitled Capel Y Graigalthough this latest version is completely different. While Capel Y Graig found her improvising on the guitar (6- and 12-string) while Toby also added piano, Harp and guitar improvisations, Toby doesn't touch his guitar at all and instead concentrates all his energy on the harp.
The results of this "evening of whiskey and improvisation" at Toby's home in Mid Wales are pretty good. This would be the last time they played music with a friend before the pandemic started.
The two improvised tracks that made it onto this recording aren't overly long, but the way they play together is so fascinating that it overrides any notion of time. The first, part 1, takes just under 7 minutes. It opens to sparkling circular tones on the harp, soon to be accompanied by David's guitar, mingling and intertwining like a musical murmur before proceeding to begin a second movement. David's guitar strumming forms the basis for the harp melody that follows; Here, too, there is a brightness and joy in their play with them, which occasionally intertwine in harmony and allow everyone to explore before reuniting. After about four minutes, you enter a third movement in which you reduce the process to an almost meditative pace. The interplay of the picked notes is gentle and spacious; You forget which instrument is being played and surrender to the moment.
Part 2 is no less fascinating, the notes are allowed to stretch so that the interplay of harp and guitar seems more thoughtful. After a minute, they begin exploring a short circling melody, with the harp accentuating the guitar's notes and sometimes almost resembling the kora. Although the contemplative mood of the session is maintained throughout, it never feels melancholy, it is consistently peppered with a melodic brightness, accented by moments when the harp and guitar meet a kind of groove where they could easily have let the piece go , leisurely explore the notes from each other.
Those familiar with the game of Toby and David will know that while they are both very accomplished gamers, they have nothing noticeable about their game; their art is much deeper and also revolves around the space between the notes they play. In these two improvised sessions they demonstrate this skill in an admirable way and create a travel-like music that transports the listener. This is music that you will return to time and time again.
Despite being a digital release, Holly Blackshaw's artwork is reminiscent of early guitar solos and compliments the music in it perfectly.
All sales for October will go to Shelter Cymru – Shelter Cymru.org.uk
Order via Bandcamp: https://cambrianrecords.bandcamp.com/album/harp-guitar-improvisations
Artwork by Holly Blackshaw