Alex Bird doesn’t need an accompanist. With a single phrase, the directness of his voice conveys so much emotional information, that even the most silent seconds have an unshakeable sense of fulfillment to them. Pianist Ewen Farncombe, knowing this, gives Bird plenty of voids to work with. There’s an endearing ebb and flow to their tandem, like the cordial exchange of shared dance, a conversation, a flurry of interjections or two shopping carts gracefully rolling across a lot. There are moments where each musician almost sounds like they’re crafting an independent piece.
Such is the case in the closing minute of Symphony of Love, with Bird’s loose reframing of the melody evasively circling around Farncombe’s increasingly zestful comping. There are magical moments where each musician sounds like they’re completing the other’s ideas before they’re conceived. Such is the case in the closing minute of the aptly titled I’ll Go Where You Lead, with Farncombe’s thoroughly intentional calls concerning how the beginnings of each phrase coincide with Bird’s. Fact is, there are magical moments everywhere to be had on this album, because Bird is in control of his songwriting craft and Farncombe is as adaptable and willing an accompanist as they come. Bird’s vocals may not need an accompanist to make profoundly interesting and layered music, but Farncombe expands what is possible in that regard. The sum here far exceeds its parts.