Sean Foran & Stuart McCallum – ‘Counterpart’ (Album Review)

Every now and then, a quartet comes together that just epitomizes sweetness. They make music that is entirely lovely, like made for babbling brooks and breezy summer days that aren’t oppressively hot. Sometimes a group comes along and isn’t trying to get hype and that’s just all you need. Australian pianist Sean Foran and Manchester-based guitarist Stuart McCallum lead a quartet including bassist Sam Vicary and drummer John Parker to craft a debut album as cleansing as a passing thunderstorm (to keep these nature similes and metaphors going). Counterpart, out June 21st on Naim Records simply relishes in being lovely.

The way this group gels together so gently felt immediately reminiscent of 2006’s Metheny/Mehldau, the team up of pianist Brad Mehldau and his trio of bassist Larry Grenadier & drummer Jeff Ballard (at the time, a relatively new addition to the trio) with the legendary guitarist Pat Metheny. In much the same way, Foran and McCallum’s group vibes together and gives that same sort of pastoral feel.

Even the song titles lend themselves to such evocation. “November” shimmers, with Foran taking his time early on the keys, allowing subtle electronic touches to take hold, adding little brushstrokes here and there. The tune coasts gently along, Foran and McCallum in sync for much of it but those electronic warps never fully leave, subtly affecting the song in beautifully weird ways. “While the Trees Waltz” is perfectly named, an evenly-paced waltz that feels plucked straight out of a movie score all about countrysides. “Quiet Times”, while still on the softer vibe, seems insistent that this will be the time for quiet, damnit. “Skydancer”, to be released as a single the same day as album Counterpart‘s June 21st release, radiates, pulses, and glides like a magnetic train floating over the tracks.

This is a chill album, but it by far is not uninteresting. It’s not soporific, or “nice”, and it is leaps and bounds from milquetoast. It takes a deft hand to play music in these shades of blue, turning up the purples, maybe dabbling in the greens, and with just that palate craft something so gripping. Foran and McCallum’s compositions burn with low heat, like how one isn’t meant to overcook the eggs to make the perfect omelette. Counterpart by and large is a vibe. It’s the chill you look for sometimes in this music and couldn’t find a better modern example.

Counterpart, the new album from pianist Sean Foran and guitarist Stuart McCallum, is out June 21st on Naim Records. It is available for pre-order now.

Sean Foran – pianos/keyboards
Stuart McCallum – guitars
John Parker – drums
Sam Vicary – bass