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Lee Westwood Ensemble - Nymph Suite and Other Stories

Nymph Suite and Other Stories

Lee Westwood Ensemble

Available from Lee Westwood's web site.

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

As might be expected, given the CD title, there's an overriding delicacy to affairs here but one that bases in classicalism—not just the facile echo of classical construction too often affected by pseudo-progrock groups ("neoprog") and New Age partisans but a genuine chamber sophistication. Lee Westwood plays guitar with a hoary combination of the eldritch and modern, somewhat like a John Williams (no, not the whey-faced Star Wars composer but the great British classical/modern guitarist) and thus bridges the languages of his enterprise marvelously.

For back-up, he chose to utilize a flautist, cellist, violinist, and contrabassist, all of whom exercise deep sympathies for the compositions. The songs are strongly Romantic but also hark further back to airily post-Medieval days, when pastorales ruled while players were yearning to break into more futuristic leanings. This of course leads to a number of Impressionistic responses, as in Water—Dryad & Nereid, with Phillippe Barnes' flute dancing spaciously atop Westwood's entrancing fingerpicking in a duet that sounds far fuller than it is, a signal of superb writing. Ravel figures as a constant near presence here and continues his presence throughout the disc.

Traces of the first Long Hello LP are evident, as well as Jade Warrior, a bit of Jan Akkerman, Flairck, Gryphon, Fruup, Conventum, and other progrockers but the CD isn't prog, rather a more profound exposition of that which informed so many brilliant musical minds of the ilk. Steve Hackett, in later work, delved into this territory but still not quite so authentically as Westwood. Were it not for the distinctly 20th century strains wafting throughout the suites, one would be tempted to think the work issued from a semi-modern classicalist text perhaps resurrected from transcripts lost to happenstance.

Nymph Suite is a collection of songs of rare discernment, completely immersed in an evolved sense of art that I wouldn't be surprise to find debuting at Royce Hall (UCLA's famed venue for important new classical works) or elsewhere. The vivacity shown is remarkable for its subtle ability to cancel any possibility of turning away in what might otherwise be a reflexive disdain for a goodly amount of the oft old constructions while still infusing the best possible elements of that ancient tradition. In short, a masterpiece, though it will require a very intelligent set of ears to fully savor its properties.

Track List:

  • The Nymph Suite:
    1. Woodland - Dryad & Meliae
    2. Water—Dryad & Nereid
    3. Mountain - Oread
  • Tales of Hungary:
    • Fudd El Jo Szel
    • Esteli Imadsag
    • My Mind is a Valley
  • Other Stories:
    • The New World
    • The Protagonist
    • The Saddest Song
    • Burgundy
    • At Sea
All songs written by Lee Westwood except Fudd El Jo Szel and Esteli Imadsag—traditional arranged by L. Westwood.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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