Experience by Terry Disley – reviewed by Chris Mann


It’s a safe bet that if you’ve visited this site before, you’ll know the music of Acoustic Alchemy.  Keyboardist/composer Terry Disley is credited with injecting a noticeable energy into the Grammy-nominated “Back on the Case” from 1991.  His compositional talents can also be heard, among others, on “The Beautiful Game” and “Aart”.  The story goes much further back though… 

Londoner Terry studied piano and music theory of music between the ages of 9 and 18.  His extensive studies encompassed classical repertoire, jazz, composition, harmony and arranging. In 1982 Terry and his group Macondo received the award for Best Jazz Musicians of the year from the Greater London Arts Association. 

Terry has written since the age of 11 and has composed for string quartets, electronic contemporary dance music, jazz big band, ambient new age music and contemporary pop songs.  He has also composed music and been a featured player for several movies including Snitch, Beautiful Girls, The Ref, Showgirls and Crime Time. 

He’s worked in the studio and on stage with acts as disparate as Madness and McCoy Tyner, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Tom Jones.  His list of credits is stunning.  He currently lives in San Francisco recording and performing his own projects and maintaining a busy session musician’s life.  “Experience” is the first recording to bear the Disley name. 

3 Arabian Nights has a gorgeous laid-back but solid groove and that crystal-clear piano is overlaid so sweetly.  This is nice and moody and it’s deceptively simple.  I love the insistent bassline and cymbal on Swingmatism.  Those big, fat, full piano chords sound lovely and warm.  Alex Murzyn’s sax doubles the piano lines really neatly and Jeff Buenz’s guitar adds flavour but never clutters this piano/sax interplay.  So, so classy. 

Are You the One? Is deeply romantic.  The piano melody is strong and the feeling is deepened by the rasping sax of veteran saxman Norbert Stachel, sounding like a mellow Gato Barbieri.  The drums and percussion are sparse and the simplicity of the production is perfect for a ballad like this.  Getting more upbeat, Slam Dunk isn’t maybe as funky as its title suggests but it grooves along nicely, starting to sound a little like a daytime TV theme but then picking up for the piano solo.  By then, you’re nodding your head and into it. 

It’s hard to stay still to the reggae-fied Twist It Up.  The piano sounds very grand over such an earthy rhythm.  However, done with style and humour that characterizes much of Acoustic Alchemy’s music, it works.  Radio is sure to pick up on this…  Close your eyes when you listen to City Lights and drift away to a classic jazz trio sound (I know there’s guitar but it’s a whisper).  I’m listening to this through headphones in a busy office at lunchtime and I’m still transported.  The acoustic bass playing by Brad Russell is as lyrical as the piano.  It’s intensely romantic and beautiful. 

Disley’s artistry is so obvious on the intro to Side to Side.  That cool ‘n’ funky rhythm and that staccato piano make a comparison with Joe Sample’s ‘70’s albums “Rainbow Seeker” and “Carmel” unavoidable.  I could play this song all day – I just might.  I can’t help smiling when I listen to Graduation.  That ultra-clean electric piano that’s playing minor chords but still sounding upbeat is the stuff of boy-meets-girl romantic comedy.  Someone needs to make sure this features on the soundtrack of Hugh Grant’s next movie. 

The jazzy dance grooves of Smooth Sailing have instant appeal and again the doubles sax and piano lines reinforce a very strong melody.  Stu Hamm’s solid bass moves around gorgeously and the piano solo midway through lifts this song above the realm of songs that are merely pretty.  When the groove hardens, this gets really interesting.  There’s a fast, repeating piano figure which kicks off Sedona and it’s obvious that a dramatic number is opening.  It’s a “big” song with another strong melody.  My guess is that some people think I’m being derogatory when I point out how suitable some music would be for film and/or TV.  That’s certainly not the intention – I’m a movie lover and I can imagine hearing this as the backdrop to an intense scene.  It takes a couple of listens to fully appreciate this song. 

There’s a dark European melancholy inside Sweet Magnolia.  The accordion and bowed acoustic bass sound sad but Alex Murzyn’s sax really weeps.  If I wanted to explain “European melancholy” I’d say – think of a Paris boulevard on a wet November day.  You’ll be halfway there…  The mood is lighter and sweeter for the moving Romance Dance.  It makes a fitting closer because it leaves a very clear impression of Terry Disley’s musical personality.  He comes over as one mellow guy, whose music is really expressive and emotional.  The piano and sax lead alternately and the balance works well. 

This CD contains a strong mix of groove and melody, with the latter being predominant.  When you look at Terry Disley’s varied background, especially his work on film scores, it’s easy to see how all of these influences would come together on this album.  I’m hoping that the next release will explore the groove side a little more and bring Terry well-deserved airplay and a solid fan base.



   Disleyworld Music - TDC005   Producer – Terry Disley