CANYON is a new musical partnership between pianist Tom Harris and drummer Kai Chareunsy. Despite playing together for over five years, the duo have only just released their debut EP together under the name CANYON. After a year of ‘musical solitude’, Chareunsy and Harris decided to record a set of free improvisations together in January 2021, which became their debut EP canyon, exhibits i-vi.. The duo created four hours worth of music in the studio together, then condensed this expansive output into just 21 minutes. This EP features beautiful moments of intimate interaction between two incredibly individual jazz musicians, which are simultaneously freely improvised and earnest in intention. The duo’s ability to create moments of intensity and tension, yet also moments of beauty and solace within this stripped-back environment is admirable. The triumph of the EP is the attentive listening of both players, and their electric interaction with one another in each new moment.
‘The triumph of the EP is the attentive listening of both players, and their electric interaction’
canyon, exhibits i-vi. opens with ‘The Movement of Rivers’, a beautifully melancholic improvisation which features exploratory, rubato drumming and introduces the listener to the duo’s musical sensitivity. Harris’ harmonic choices are thoughtful and pensive, whilst Chareunsy’s drumming adds a sense of movement and pushes the duo forward as they rise and fall together. Each track’s title truly reflects the feel of the piece itself, and allows us to think about the track in a new way – ‘The Movement of Rivers’ as a title informs our experience as listeners, as do many of the later titles in the EP. ‘Weathering This’ is a perfect example: the repetitive, staccato sounds from both players take on new meaning through the lens of the title. Chareunsy’s sensitive yet abrasive timbre choices on drums constantly add new textures to Harris’ looping right hand, and to his liberated left hand. The repetitive nature of the piece allows both musicians to mirror one another in intensity, building to a thrilling climactic point of tension which is then finally released.
‘This EP features beautiful moments of intimate interaction between two incredibly individual jazz musicians’
Similarly, ‘Collide’ creates points of tension through the intended conflict between the two musicians on this piece. The call and response exchanges between Harris and Chareunsy oscillate between moments of unison and togetherness, and moments of conflict and contrast. Harris uses the same bass idea throughout the entire piece, creating a sense of cohesion which is starkly contrasted through unfamiliar and new melodic ideas. Chareunsy’s response on drums is insightful, either halting or escalating the piece at key moments. ‘Collide’ is so clever because of its contrasts, and the way in which both musicians use repetition against newness in this improvised space. ‘Landform’ also reflects this sense of togetherness and contrast, but in a much quieter way. It ends the album with tentative and muted beauty.
‘Chareunsy’s sensitive yet abrasive timbre choices on drums constantly add new textures to Harris’ repetitive right hand’
Finally, ‘Plains’ and ‘Undefiled’ are quieter, contemplative pieces which explore in a different way. ‘Plains’ features Chareunsy solely on brushes, as Harris explores melodies which feel almost classical and folk-like in influence. This piece is extremely moving, through its sensitivity and intimacy. ‘Undefiled’ also opens with a similar feeling, yet Harris immediately plays with our expectations through the soft dissonances he creates on piano. Chareunsy’s accompaniment provides a sense of movement to Harris’ beautiful musings, pushing the piece forward and maintaining an intensity which has been present throughout the EP. ‘Undefiled’ seems to embody the symbiotic relationship between the two players – the way in which they mirror, reflect, and yet inform one another is made plain on this track. The slow build into quicker rhythm changes and increased intensity is perfectly balanced between the two musicians, as they respond so sensitively to each other’s ideas. This track really is beautiful, and an impactful listen.
‘‘Undefiled’ seems to embody the symbiotic relationship between the two players’
CANYON have created a perceptive and compelling EP which sets them apart in the UK music scene. Harris and Chareunsy are definitely ones to watch as young new improvisers. The interaction between the CANYON duo in this improvised environment is a pleasure to listen to – and this interaction between creatives was also an extremely important part of the project as a whole. canyon, exhibits i-vi. involves many other artists, who each respond to the music through their own mediums – the six track EP features six illustrated poetic accompaniments, and two music videos, from Marco Woolf (poet), Imogen Richards (visual artist), Stephanie Burrell (dancer), and Luca Shaw (visual artist). Including as many artists as possible within a creative project is brilliant in itself, especially considering the current difficulties of being a creative in the UK, but the layers which each new art form brings to the EP also makes it even more engaging as an artwork. We can’t wait to see who the duo will collaborate with next, and what they will create.