Album of the Week \\ Bryony Jarman-Pinto masters delicate, easy grace on debut album ‘Cage & Aviary’

16th August 2019
‘Cage & Aviary’ – Bryony Jarman-Pinto’s debut album – builds around her voice, giving it space and freedom to explore enchanting melodies and delicate harmonies.

Words: Harry Stott

The title of Bryony Jarman-Pinto’s debut record, ‘Cage & Aviary’, is actually something of a misnomer. Yes, the avian theme is frequent and obvious; ‘For the Birds’ opens the album with layers of acapella vocal lines, each with the delicate, gauze-like quality of birdsong. It’s the idea that there is anything caged here that is off. Bryony’s vocals have total freedom, and are duly delivered without strain or stretch – the sign of a truly fine singer. The soar and glide, never trapped, wings clipped. Her voice is the centrepiece of what is a bright, finely tuned album that combines folk with Jazz, and evokes a feeling of natural bliss through the singer’s lyrics and crystalline vocals.

Given Bryony was brought up in Cumbria – one of the UK’s few remote wildernesses: all lakes and wild flowers – it makes sense that her sound and lyrics should convey such a sense of idyll. It’s a far cry from the upbringing many Jazz vocalists (and, indeed, most people) who came up in gritty cities would have had, and it is, perhaps, what sets her apart from many of her contemporaries. Her lyrical writing throughout is unashamedly bucolic, flooded with clear streams, lush meadows, sun and the wild. She talks of “Water, calming me down, soothing the flesh” on ‘Saffron Yellow’, one of the album’s stand out tracks, with a name that in itself suggests purity and clarity.

This imagery gives the album a charming, folky quality, echoing sentiments found in the work of artists like Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling. Bryony, however, conveys her message using Jazz as a conduit. Harmonically, it is so much harder to unlock than her folk contemporaries, which makes it so much more gratifying when you do. The vocal lines on ‘Sweet Sweet’ move with unpredictability, sashaying this way and that as you try to pin them down. ‘Threads’ does something similar, although its finger picked guitar line and lush vocal harmonies are quickly shattered by the crack of a snare rim that transforms into a hip-hop beat, colouring the track in an entirely new hue. 

Bryony’s vocals are also vastly cooler than her long haired, guitar wielding peers. Not that this is something folk artists (or even, one imagines, Bryony) is really concerned with, it’s just her voice can’t help but exude style and charisma. On ‘Sun Kissed’, Bryony says: ‘All I really want to do is lie in the sun with you’, effortlessly skipping around the melody in the upper register. There’s more natural imagery here, but this time with a modern, Roy Ayers kind of spin on it, and with finger snaps and scurrying basslines instead of acoustic guitar.

The album’s production is a case in point for less is more, never intruding on Bryony’s voice, which has an intangible timbre akin to a very small number of musicians around today: Esperanza Spalding and Laura Perrudin come to mind. She needs little accompaniment and so the record is built around her vocals, put together so that the rhythm section is there only for direction, a loose guide for the singer to follow. And at times, as on ‘Alchemy’, you feel there isn’t any need for drums, such is the skill with which Bryony delivers her lines, flowing and bouncing along, creating the offbeats herself. That’s why the inclusion of ‘cage’ in the title feels odd: the beauty of this album comes from the freedom its singer enjoys, dancing in the sky with a delicate, easy grace.

Order Bryony Jarman-Pinto’s debut album ‘Cage & Aviary’ here

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