The Guardian Live Review – 14th September

Balancing on the tipping point between freedom and order is jazz music’s recurring challenge and The-Quartet (the hyphen is intentional, and faintly irritating) spectacularly rise to it at this gig to launch their sophisticated debut CD, Illuminated. The group’s central partnership is the pairing of guitarist, producer and film score composer Jack Hues and classically trained pianist Sam Bailey, both of whom have long CVs, but not on the UK jazz circuit.
If The-Quartet sound on paper like a composers’ band with a little jazz embroidered on, live, the excellent tenor saxophonist Paul Booth ensures that a turbulent Coltranesque passion is central to their sound. The bass-and-drums partnership of non-regulars Tom Mason and Dave Smith also keeps the heat up, and the group’s spontaneous energy is as powerful a core quality as the writing.
The group’s horizons stretch from abstractly impressionistic pieces (like Jack Hues’ Fallujah, which moves from spooky Terje Rypdal-like guitar electronics to bumpy free-rhythms) to flat-out postbop sprints with ingenious melodic twists, as on the flying finale Nervous. A taut guitar hook echoed by Booth’s tenor sax wound up the first set, while the fearlessly belligerent drumming of Dave Smith (a real discovery) and Booth’s whooping, loop-like phrases culminated in a thrilling collective jam.
Wah-wah guitar, a delicate tracery of piano figures and a soft Latin feel propelled Brahms Blues, and Hues’ and Bailey’s fondness for splicing busy clusters of notes into rhythmic spaces that seem too tight for them often drove the group to a cliffhanging intensity. Violinist Raven Bush guested near the end, adding a vividness reminiscent of the early Mahavishnu Orchestra. – John Fordham



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