Alabaster DePlume, the stage name for the Mancunian saxophonist and composer Gus Fairbairn, makes intimate music, but that’s only the beginning. His work typically combines his quavering cashmere-toned sax with light inflections of choral music, small percussion, and lyrics that are so bluntly positive that they aren’t afraid to list into mawkish or twee territory; song titles on Gold include “Don’t Forget You’re Precious” and “I’m Good at Not Crying.” For all of its opaque lyricism and complex balladry, DePlume’s music could connect Norah Jones with Motian/Lovano/Frisell on a playlist.
The songs on Gold: Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love move with an unhurried ease that brings to mind another Manchester-based group, Massive Attack—except the tonal colors are completely different. The saxophonist weaves in and out of the lead, highlighting the vulnerability of his tone. Offset by backing vocals that sound at some times like devotional chamber music and at others like classic girl-group pop, the lyrics are crooned gently, but their points are asserted firmly; self-love is vital. If the emotions researcher and public speaker Brené Brown weren’t so hellbent on being a raucous Texan, she’d probably employ DePlume’s songs as theme music in her podcasts. They extend beyond jazz’s borders gracefully, but at their introspective core, they feel very much of a piece with Esperanza Spalding’s recent work.