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Mark McKnight Quartet – Colston Hall, Sep 18

September 21, 2011

Another first rate band mixing British, Irish and one US musician. Their CD is getting admiring reviews – see here and here – which give the flavour, so no need to describe the sound.

They were equally impressive live, if not quite reaching the heights of wunderkind Marius Neset’s effort at Colston a couple of weeks before. The much-lauded Seamus Blake on sax seemed a little jet-lagged to me (a clogged journey down the M4 from Heathrow was mentioned), and while he has all the equipment you’d expect of a hot New York player he didn’t do anything especially distinctive on the night. He’ll be up there with, say Donny McAslin in a few years, I’d guess, but a little way to go yet, for me.

McKnight is a pure jazz guitarist – although the sax and unison lines were often pleasingly reminiscent of Scofield/Lovano’s old band, he doesn’t do Sco’s dirtier sounds nearly as much as the older player. The whole approach has a well-developed Berklee sheen, which I quite like, and he solos mainly on scales, which he must practice an awful lot. He writes good tunes, and the band enjoyed playing them, none more so than James Maddren on drums. He was in some ways the most compelling presence. He was always supporting the group, but has such nice detail bursting forth all the time it is quite satisfying just to focus on him for much of each number. He can do more delicate, Paul Motian like things in other contexts but here he is just a superb straight ahead drummer. Another fine evening for Mr Storror, then, and a good start to McKnight’s tour. Expect to see some more live reviews praising them soon.

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