Trish Clowes quartet – Be-bop club, Dec 10

An evening to note as the first sighting of someone who is obviously going to be heard doing many interesting things for years to come. The young leader is as much composer as player – her sax sound has been compared to Getz, Wellins and Charles Lloyd by others but I think all three of those are stretching comparison a bit. She’s impressive but still doesn’t sound quite fully realised as a player to me. Her lines are cliche free and inventive, but here is not much variation in sound from the instrument. Not compared with someone like, say Joe Lovano, just to invoke a standard impossible for almost anyone to match because he happens to be coming to Bristol in March. But plenty of time to develop there and meantime it seems as if her interest is more in the actual notes.

And she is clearly a superb manipulator of sounds, as her much-praised debut CD (also on e-music) confirms. There are cello lines, orchestral settings and trumpet duos going on there which cannot be duplicated with a straight “jazz” quartet. But the writing displays what sounds to me like an acute musical intelligence in both settings. And it attracts fine people to her band, here the dream team of James Maddren on drums and Calum Gourlay on bass, with Lewis Wright on vibes. All played superbly, and the whole thing added up to the best evening I’ve heard at the Bear since Maddren and Gourlay were last there, with Kit Downes. The drummer sounded as if he’s spent a lot of time listening to Paul Motian this evening, emphasising the great quality he has of never being busier than he needs to be. Gourlay gave great, deep-toned support and played some fine solos, and Wright was phenomenal throughout. The whole thing was bound together by a programme of original compositions from the leader which were varied, cleverly wrought, and neatly arranged for the smaller group. Can’t wait to hear what she does next.

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