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The young pianist and composer Alcyona, until recently known as Alcyona Mick, is emerging as an original new voice on the British jazz scene. She's still only 24 (or just turned 25) years old, but her band's performances during the past year or so have several times overturned their 'support act' billings.

An alumnus of Birmingham Conservatoire (where she had the good fortune to be tutored by the distinctive Liam Noble) and London's Royal Academy of Music, Alcyona's style includes traces of Thelonious Monk and Lennie Tristano, along with influences from the European classical tradition (Debussy and Messiaen suggest themselves). It's spacious, poised, harmonically rich but understated music, sometimes playful and sometimes dark, and somehow very feminine. Among Alcyona's intriguing arranging signatures is the use of long held tones played by the two horns in close harmony, microcosms of sound which suggest bigger pictures the longer you tune into them and the more her piano interacts with them.

Alcyona's debut album Around The Sun is to be welcomed as a testament of her early promise, but it was recorded two and a half years ago, in 2004, and she has matured considerably as a composer, arranger and bandleader since the sessions. The disc will be of interest primarily to those who've recently heard Alcyona live, and want to document the opener in what will hopefully be a long and developing discography.

The band is tremendous. Tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip mostly favours a purified, unreedy tone, but his playing is too sinewy and rhythmically engaged to be called pastel or limpid. Trumpeter and flugelhornist Robbie Robson is more extroverted; his impish playing on the Monk tribute Monkey sticks in the mind long after the album has ended. Phil Donkin is an agile and creative bass player, and Asaf Sirkis and John Blease are both energised and listening drummers.

Around The Sun was produced by Malcolm Creese, Acoustic Triangle's founder and bass player. Creese knows a thing or two about exciting, emergent pianists: Gwilym Simcock, another original new voice, for the moment more celebrated than Alcyona, currently occupies Acoustic Triangle's piano chair. Good things can be expected of Alcyona. Watch out for her.

By Chris May


Alcyona has shortened the odds on becoming regarded as one of the significant forces in the first decade of the 21st century. Her piano style has links to Thelonius Monk and Ahmad Jamal, and her distinctive compositions seem to straddle classic hard bop, Don Byron-like reflections on the almost-trad, and the street rhythms of hip-hop and contemporary R&B. Saxophonist Mark Hanslip, a Wayne Shorter admirer, lends a considerable character to the set, the horn harmonies are very atmospheric, and the classical piano unaccompanied interludes show how much depth there is to Alcyona's message.

John Fordham


Alcyona - pianist, composer

Dorset-born musician out of the Birmingham Conservatory and the Royal Academy. Very sophisticated developer of the hard-bop tradition adding materials from both urban and classical music, with a sparing, but telling piano technique and a wry grasp of the slinky horn harmonies of old Blue Note records. Her debut album Around The Sun has recently been released, and the more substantial compositional developments can't be far away.


Another very impressive debut. (Again) there are a couple of piano solo improvisations for contrast, but most pieces were written by Alcyona for a small band. Asaf Sirkis and Phil Donkin provide a strong and varied rhythm with two new names to me, Robbie Robson trumpets and Mark Hanslip tenor sax. The whole disc succeeds in being fresh and immediately appealing, both thoughtful and occasionally humorous.

Peter Bevan

Evening Standard 27 Oct 2006

Guardian 10 Nov 2006 John Fordham

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Jazzwise Dec 06

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