“And, we have lift-off.” So I noted down half-way through the third tune of the gig. Not that the two openers weren’t good. This was a very accomplished quartet – led by an up and coming sax player and composer. Two of them, Mark Whitlam on drums and ace pianist John Turville, were playing the music on stage for the first time. With players of this calibre, this isn’t a problem. The second number, October Ending, already saw a strong sax solo matched by a flowing contribution from the pianist.
By number three, though, the soulful Nordic Blues (think The Bridge if you want a clue to the composer’s inspiration) they were definitely a band. Bassist Will Harris, an Anderson regular, furnished an impeccable intro and the others dug in as if they’d known it for years. It’s a great piece, reminiscent of some of Kit Downes’ early compositions for his trio. Like Anderson’s other work it’s tuneful – and I like tuneful, most of the time – but also very thoughtfully put together.
Another, longer, bass intro later on Let the Ayes Have It, was a highlight. Will’s sound seems to get bigger every time he plays these days, and it’s an instrument that is often more arresting live than on CD . The leader was unfailingly interesting – his manner is low-key and his sax tone is untheatrical, somewhere in Mark Turner’s neck of the woods, but like Turner there is real improvisational flair, shown off to good effect on the mildly minatory ballad It’s Later than you Think. Turville was his splendid self, throughout, and Mark Whitlam energised this new music with consummate professionalism.
The standard of writing meant that I’d be happy to hear any of the pieces again – not always the case with talented young players eager to perform their own stuff. And they are sure to develop as the quartet carries on from this first night of a tour. They’ll be back in the neighbourhood in August for a gig at the Fringe, and the return visit is one to look forward to.
Meantime, the CD, Rambling – released in a week or so – features a different (excellent) pianist and drummer and expands the band to a septet on five of the ten tracks, allowing Anderson to include parts for trumpet, trombone and guitar. These ensemble arrangements work really well, but I guess we won’t hear them live because, economics. Still, Nick Malcolm at his most Kenny Wheelerish really shines on trumpet on several numbers. The Fringe gig is billed as the quartet, but it’d be great to hear him with this band live, too…
I’m really pleased that I went back to buy the CD. Played it three times today hand running and I’m really enjoying it. The larger ensemble on the CD contains some well chosen additions and like you I’d be pleased to hear Nick Malcolm join the live session at the Fringe. It is easy to see that Matt Anderson will become a player to watch in the future.