Nottingham jazz piano competition

The Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition is on again this weekend, sponsored by Clement Pianos. It’s run by some friends of ours, and is a great event where you can see some of the finest young jazz pianists in the world. If you’re in the area get along — tickets are only £5 for the semi-finals on Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th, and £7.50 for the final on Sunday the 7th.

Honey and Lava officially released

Today is the official release date of our first album Honey and Lava. You can buy the CD from the Coralspin online shop, or digitally from Bandcamp or Aurovine (or, if you must, from iTunes). Bandcamp and Aurovine both offer high-quality mp3s, plus full-quality FLAC and wav files, and also allow you to listen to the whole album in 128kbps quality for free. You can also order it from HMV and Amazon.

However you listen to it, make sure you turn it up loud, as it’s only been lightly limited at the mastering stage. We did this to preserve the dynamic range of the album, so that it doesn’t sound loud but squashed like so many modern CDs. This does mean, however, that our tracks will sound much quieter than other modern tracks when played at the same volume level. All you need to do to combat this, however, is to turn the volume up (just like you have to with all your old CDs from the days before the ‘loudness wars’). 5/5, ‘stuff of genius’

Just when I was getting sick of putting up reviews, here comes an amazing one that I just have to post, so please excuse this further indulgence. It’s by Iain P. W. Robertson, no less, one of the best reviewers around (we talked on the phone a while back, he’s a great guy to talk to). The site is, which apparently is one of the biggest review sites in the country.

Prog-rock just got a new hero, or heroine, in Coralspin, for which melody and originality come as first nature
Review by Iain P W Robertson

…My current music library is populated by all manner of sounds, so catholic is my personal taste, but prog-rock remains my guilty pleasure and the latest debut album to join its ranks comes from the intriguingly named Coralspin. Unusually, it is a group fronted by a woman, a graduate of Leeds University’s Conservatorium. Ellie Blythe is a talented musician, being a fully-trained classical and operatic performer, who happens to be a dab hand on the keyboards.

Joined by Blake McQueen (keyboards) and Jake Simmons (guitar), with a rhythm section consisting of Steve Knightly (bass) and David English (drums), the original trio started to compose some truly exciting sounds. However, as tends to be the case with prog-rockers, there is heaps of intelligence intrinsic to the association and McQueen, as a bit of a technological wunderkind, set about building his own sound-proofed studio set-up.

Inevitably, he furnished it with a plethora of keyboards (shades of Tony Banks). However, his talents extended into also building the computers upon which the music would be recorded. Thanks to his intuitive approach, he worked extensively on raising the bar on recording standards, discovering the mastery of mixing and he learned how to produce to the most professional level.

Let’s face it, in a market over-populated by home studio recordings and on-line releases of singles, EPs and complete albums, there is little point in trying to rely on the big studios and labels for support… they are all barrelling along on a Cowell-created wave of short-termism. Coralspin’s first album is not merely a taster but is a fully-formed and eminently accomplished oeuvre, possessing an aura of commitment and competence missing from much of today’s readily disposable output and its lyricism is the stuff of genius.

Ellie’s voice is hauntingly contralto in its styling, which lends the lyrics a surprisingly familiar tonal quality. The sound is definitely authentic but it leans heavily on the Genesis song-book for inspiration, although there is nothing wrong with that in my book. While the PR blurb suggests that Kate Bush and Sandy Denny influences may lurk in there somewhere, I think that Ms Blythe manages to scythe her own appealing niche in this upper grade stage.

Honey And Lava is a brilliantly executed album of just eight different tracks that are delivered richly and smoothly. Of course, in true prog-rock form, none of them is a three-minute radio-play but, fans would not want that in any case. Yet, Coralspin manages to avoid too many ’proggy’ moments, with its unique spin on the rock scene and the lyrical progressions are almost as brilliant as the musical breaks. To cut short such free-formism would be myopic indeed and the listener is taken on a delightful ride from one cusp to the next of musical expressionism that is never less than stimulating and eminently accomplished.

Honey and Lava is a fresh take on some well-established precepts and, as a debut album, I sincerely hope that the band has enough drive to take it to the next level. According to Blake McQueen, it already has enough material to create a second and third albums and, yes, there will be the occasionally longer and more complex works to supplement the vista. There is a lot to like here and listening for the second and third occasions just enhances the proposition.

Jerry Lucky’s website

There’s a good US prog review site run by author and music historian Jerry Lucky that is worth checking out:

He’s just given us a good review, so we have to say that he’s a most astute observer!

The challenge with any new band is to carve out a distinctive sound, one that you can clearly call your own. Newcomers Coralspin seem to have succeeded in that task drawing together some rather disparate influences. But then isn’t that what progressive rock is all about? Formed in the late 2000’s the core trio consists of Ellie Blyth (vocals, keyboards), Blake McQueen (keyboards) and Jake Simmons (guitar). Though not officially with the group the sound is augmented by Steve Kightley (bass) and David English (drums). As mentionedCoralspin bring together influences as diverse as Kate Bush and Led Zeppelin to give something quite unique.

There’s a total of 37-minutes of music on Honey and Lava; 8-tracks of varying lengths. Things get underway with one of the more proggy tunes entitled “Sons of the Sleeping Giant” [6:59]. It’s the longest track and offers the most musical change-ups. Commencing with some doom-laden power chords then changing to some staccato strumming before the doubled vocals come in setting a rather ominous choral tone. Around the three-minute mark they develop some wonderful cascading runs that have a nice cello tone reminding me of Zep’s “Kashmir”. After a couple key-changes and short musical detours, the band return to the opening section briefly before inserting a somewhat majestic vocal interlude before finally closing the tune with the cello-ish riff. It’s a great tune that is both quirky and musical. Coralspin are a band of many styles and the next track “You’re Wrong” [3:33] opens in kind of a power-ballad fashion, mid-tempo with full emphasis on melodic flow. I must say, the Kate Bush influence is evident on two fronts, Ellie Blyth’s vocals of course, but also many of these compositions are shorter in nature and yet contain lots of artistic elements; subtle arrangements and interesting use of instrumentation. The tunes start off in a certain fashion but never go where you think; the band offer up many pleasant little surprises along this musical journey.

Coralspin in their short time together have been gaining much media attention and I think it’s well deserved. Their initial foray into the musical world, Honey and Lava offers much to acquit itself. Balancing some great melodic tunes against some rather artsy or proggy elements provides Coralspin with a sound that is all their own. As a first offering they get full marks from me and I can’t wait to see what they do next. You would do well to check’em out.

Guitar Techniques review

Jake’s pretty happy about Guitar Techniques magazine praising his playing. I’m happy that they thought us worthy of a review — they only review about 8 releases per issue.

Guitar Techniques Honey and Lava review

Here’s the text:

Coralspin are Ellie Blyth on vocals and keyboards, Blake McQueen on keyboards and Jake Simmons on guitar, but they are augmented with bass and drums for this album and their collective sound is huge. Their self-penned music is thoughtfully constructed and expansive as they delve into a great melting pot of prog, pop and modern rock. Together since 2008 they have developed a unique sound (although the ending of track four is very reminiscent of early Yes) with great guitar work throughout, particularly on Sky’s End and Night Stalker. With two keyboard players in the band, the keys are clearly a dominating factor, along with Ellie’s somewhat operatic style of singing, but that certainly allows Jake’s excellent guitar to really stand out at the appropriate moments. Prog style music seems to be on the up – no bad thing as far as we’re concerned – so if it floats your boat too then give this a listen – we think you’ll like it.