This duo, and the resulting album developed out of conversations between Robert and Shirley whilst working on Robert’s Invocation project in 2014. Their discussions explored the varied paths of their respective backgrounds, and different relationships of all aspects of those musical paths to improvisation. Both have a shared classical training, in which the absence of an improvisation became both a frustration and source of inspiration. Part of the story of this album lies in their different forms of searching for this lost aspect of the classical tradition, and also the journey of embracing it in other musical forms.
Robert is long established as one of the UKs finest jazz pianists and composers, and finds expression also through the medium of poetry to explore themes of his background. He also debuts here as a narrator of his own poetry, focussing on a response to the Windrush scandal and tribute to his mum and the search for global peace. Shirley spent many years in the Middle East, where she also became involved with both jazz and Middle Eastern regional traditions and their forms of improvisation. Since returning to the UK, she has established a formidable reputation as one of the most versatile and creative cellists on the scene, drawing on her various influences as a root and basis for her musical work.
Both artists are also highly involved in music education. Shirley is Head of Performance at City University. Robert is Jazz Piano Professor at Guildhall School Of Music and Drama. This album brings together these different strands in each musician's journey, linked through the dialogic act of improvisation, to explore and re-explore their pasts and present.