Irish singer-songwriter Christine Tobin debuted some of this impressive WB Yeats-devoted material from Sailing to Byzantium at the London jazz festival last November. Her ethereal sound and patient unfolding of melody breathed new life into classics such as When You Are Old, The Wild Swans at Coole and The Second Coming. Phil Robson's guitar accompaniment and imaginative arrangements featuring cellist Kate Shortt brought a succession of quiet surprises. The studio version adds even more – not least the sober, mellifluous tones of the Irish actor Gabriel Byrne (a former schoolteacher of Tobin's) on three readings, and a significant role for the brilliant jazz flautist Gareth Lockrane. Tobin glides delicately through a rich tapestry woven by Robson, Shortt and Liam Noble's piano on The Wild Swans at Coole. The Second Coming finds Tobin leaping dramatically beyond her regular range amid free-jazz forays. Her centre-stage recital of the title track ("that is no country for old men") is subtly nuanced and rich-toned, while Long Legged Fly displays her strengths at the opposite end of her range. It's a labour of love, in the best sense.
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