The title is literal and metaphoric. A Sanctuary of Quietude refers to “moments of stillness in nature,” and the set was recorded between lockdowns in the sanctuary of St. John’s Anglican Church, Camberwell. In order to realize their vision, the Melbourne pianist Pat Jaffe and trombonist Callum Mintzis gathered a stellar cast of local musicians, forming a decet. The suite begins as modern composition, shifting to jazz as it progresses, a nimble feat. At first it is relaxing, then reflective, and finally inspirational. Completing the package are poems from Hannah McKittrick and a selection of evocative photographs.
“Embark” sets the stage on a sea of strings. One can feel the quietude of mauve and amber skies, the melancholic contrast between the fading light and the encroaching dark. This tenderness lies at the base of the work, which folds back to the beginning in its closing moments. The recording is so intimate that one can hear light catches of breath. And then, without fanfare, the melody is passed to the piano. At first Jaffe seems to be alone, but when the trombone enters it becomes apparent that he has been in conversation with Mintzis all along. At home, one cannot hear the sound of listening. The opening of “Floating” is akin to a nocturne; then the dream begins, a path revealing a colorful vista, opening widest in its final minute.
Just as a literal sanctuary is meant to point outside the sanctuary, the set’s improvisatory section stretches beyond what is seen to what is imagined. In those moments of stillness lie the seeds of artistic inspiration. The word stillness can refer to nature as well as our reaction to nature, but neither is truly still. The leaves are still, but the sap is flowing; the body is still, but the mind is active. The quiet organ sings of deeper themes. Then in “Murmur,” the album comes full circle. Melody and improvisation are melded as earlier themes resurface like returning flocks. In this sanctuary of quietude, all is as it should be. (Richard Allen)