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Blake Wilner Quartet - Interloper Rating: 4 out of 5 An excellent album of distinctive compositions played with great élan by a highly competent young band

This is the fourth album by the Australian guitarist and his quartet. Originally from Perth, Western Australia, Wilner is now resident in the UK but spent time in New York City en route. He is joined on this album by fellow Aussie ex-pat Brandon Allen on saxophone and by a British rhythm section consisting of bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Chris Hutchings.

The album features nine original compositions by Wilner. He is a powerful and highly individual writer. Many of the tunes feature rock elements but never descend into the clichés of fusion and a well-balanced programme engages the listener throughout.

The emphasis is very much on the compositions and the overall group sound. Wilner has a distinctive voice on the guitar and is very much his own man. He avoids the trap of copying more famous players like McLaughlin or Metheny.

Allen’s saxophone is rooted in R & B and rock and he too avoids the obvious jazz clichés. On many tracks he and Wilner share the melody line and there are also a number of lightning unison passages and riffs throughout the album. The combination of instruments makes for a powerful, distinctive and very effective front line. There are of course solos by both musicians but these are always pertinent to the composition and never ostentatious for their own sake. Wilner and Allen are supported brilliantly by the lithe, muscular bass of Hayhurst and the crisp, energetic, rock influenced drumming of Hutchings.

The album opens with “Drunken Romance” featuring Allen’s sax over Wilner’s undulating chords and Hutching’ chattering snare. An atmospheric piece, but not an obvious album opener. Hayhurst’s bass and Wilner’s jagged chords introduce the riff based “Mo Mo”. This is far more accessible and now the album really begins to hit its stride. The twisting, darting title track is better still and features Wilner’s ringing guitar.

“Stormy Friday” begins quietly (the calm before, perhaps) before rising in intensity with insistent, driving drumming from Hutchings, then fading to a quiet finish. It is an excellent example of building and releasing tension within a composition. The brooding “In The City” is as close as the album gets to an orthodox jazz ballad but its numerous twists and turns take it far beyond these limits.

“Dangerous Mind” features a killer riff that a heavy metal band would be proud of but expands brilliantly on this with every band member making a memorable contribution. Allen’s bellicose saxophone combines with Wilner’s clanging guitar and the pair are driven on by Hayhurst’s nimble electric bass and Hutchings’ dynamic drumming.

The brief “Deconstruction” calms things down and is almost meditative in comparison. “Café Rouge” provides a melodic acoustic bass solo from Hayhurst and is also a feature for Allen’s probing saxophone.

The atmospheric “Prayer” brings the album to a quiet close with its keening saxophone, spacey guitar and shimmering cymbals all anchored by Hayhurst’s resonant bass.

This is an excellent album of distinctive compositions played with great élan by a highly competent young band. At times the guitar/sax front line and the rock influences remind me of The Partisans and Wilner’s compositions sometimes recall those of Theo Travis who also readily uses rock elements in his tunes and is happy to acknowledge the fact.

I suspect that like Travis, Wilner grew up listening to rock and progressed on to jazz at a later stage in his musical development.

I rate the Partisans and Theo Travis very highly so these comparisons should be seen as a compliment. However, Wilner is nobodys clone and this is excellent material in its own right. Highly recommended to both jazz fans and to adventurous rock listeners who should find plenty to enjoy here.

Interloper

Blake Wilner Quartet

Monday, June 05, 2006

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

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An excellent album of distinctive compositions played with great élan by a highly competent young band

This is the fourth album by the Australian guitarist and his quartet. Originally from Perth, Western Australia, Wilner is now resident in the UK but spent time in New York City en route. He is joined on this album by fellow Aussie ex-pat Brandon Allen on saxophone and by a British rhythm section consisting of bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Chris Hutchings.

The album features nine original compositions by Wilner. He is a powerful and highly individual writer. Many of the tunes feature rock elements but never descend into the clichés of fusion and a well-balanced programme engages the listener throughout.

The emphasis is very much on the compositions and the overall group sound. Wilner has a distinctive voice on the guitar and is very much his own man. He avoids the trap of copying more famous players like McLaughlin or Metheny.

Allen’s saxophone is rooted in R & B and rock and he too avoids the obvious jazz clichés. On many tracks he and Wilner share the melody line and there are also a number of lightning unison passages and riffs throughout the album. The combination of instruments makes for a powerful, distinctive and very effective front line. There are of course solos by both musicians but these are always pertinent to the composition and never ostentatious for their own sake. Wilner and Allen are supported brilliantly by the lithe, muscular bass of Hayhurst and the crisp, energetic, rock influenced drumming of Hutchings.

The album opens with “Drunken Romance” featuring Allen’s sax over Wilner’s undulating chords and Hutching’ chattering snare. An atmospheric piece, but not an obvious album opener. Hayhurst’s bass and Wilner’s jagged chords introduce the riff based “Mo Mo”. This is far more accessible and now the album really begins to hit its stride. The twisting, darting title track is better still and features Wilner’s ringing guitar.

“Stormy Friday” begins quietly (the calm before, perhaps) before rising in intensity with insistent, driving drumming from Hutchings, then fading to a quiet finish. It is an excellent example of building and releasing tension within a composition. The brooding “In The City” is as close as the album gets to an orthodox jazz ballad but its numerous twists and turns take it far beyond these limits.

“Dangerous Mind” features a killer riff that a heavy metal band would be proud of but expands brilliantly on this with every band member making a memorable contribution. Allen’s bellicose saxophone combines with Wilner’s clanging guitar and the pair are driven on by Hayhurst’s nimble electric bass and Hutchings’ dynamic drumming.

The brief “Deconstruction” calms things down and is almost meditative in comparison. “Café Rouge” provides a melodic acoustic bass solo from Hayhurst and is also a feature for Allen’s probing saxophone.

The atmospheric “Prayer” brings the album to a quiet close with its keening saxophone, spacey guitar and shimmering cymbals all anchored by Hayhurst’s resonant bass.

This is an excellent album of distinctive compositions played with great élan by a highly competent young band. At times the guitar/sax front line and the rock influences remind me of The Partisans and Wilner’s compositions sometimes recall those of Theo Travis who also readily uses rock elements in his tunes and is happy to acknowledge the fact.

I suspect that like Travis, Wilner grew up listening to rock and progressed on to jazz at a later stage in his musical development.

I rate the Partisans and Theo Travis very highly so these comparisons should be seen as a compliment. However, Wilner is nobodys clone and this is excellent material in its own right. Highly recommended to both jazz fans and to adventurous rock listeners who should find plenty to enjoy here.


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