Vortex Jazz – July 2008
With just guitarist/composer Jack Hues and keyboardist/composer Sam Bailey still present from The-Quartet’s debut CD (Illuminated, Helium HeCD001), and with bassist Tom Mason and drummer Dave Smith replacing Rutledge Turnlund and Michael Porter respectively, occasionally augmented by saxophonist Paul Booth and trumpeter Duncan MacKay, Shattering represents a slight change of emphasis for the band.
Instead of the wide-ranging musical terrain, encompassing everything from Brahms to Miles Davis, of the first album, this one makes explicit reference to the band’s core influence, the Canterbury sound of the 1960s and ’70s.
An introductory suite, inevitably called ‘Canterbury Tales’, sees the quartet ranging easily and unaffectedly between brisk, bright, ticking themes, spacy interludes inspired by psychedelic rock, and the odd climax provided by crashing chords, but the quarter-hour piece coheres courtesy not only of the persistence of its central motif but also of the band’s consistently close attention to textural nuance.
In the remaining 30 minutes, divided between five pleasingly varied tracks, jazz-rock’s defining features the odd tricksy time signature, intelligent but unfussy use of dynamic and rhythmic variety, passages of straightforward ‘rocking out’ tellingly interspersed with more contemplative passages are all deployed with musicianly skill (Booth, as on the band’s first album, providing superb throaty saxophone; MacKay bringing some unusual textures to his trumpet features), and overall, this is a more than worthy follow-up to Illuminated, packed with dense, imaginative, absorbing and muscular music revealing fresh subtleties each time it’s played. Recommended.
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