The Jazz Mann | Julian Siegel Quartet - Julian Siegel Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/04/2018. | Review | The Jazz Mann

Accessibility Menu

REVIEW

Julian Siegel Quartet - Julian Siegel Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/04/2018. Rating: 4-5 out of 5 State of the art contemporary jazz performed by a hugely talented and very well balanced quartet that is completely on top of its game, individually and collectively.

Julian Siegel Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/04/2017.

This keenly anticipated performance by saxophonist and composer Julian Siegel and his quartet brought the fourth bumper crowd of the year to Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s monthly event The Hive.

I have long been an admirer of Siegel’s playing and composing,, whether fronting his own trios and quartets or co-leading the long running jazz rock group Partisans in partnership with guitarist and composer Phil Robson. In addition Siegel is also an in demand sideman, whether as a guest soloist with small groups or as a skilled and versatile section player in larger ensembles, these ranging over the years from the BBC Big Band to Django Bates’ Delightful Precipice.

In 2017 Siegel fulfilled a long term ambition by assembling his own stellar Jazz Orchestra to play his compositions, the majority of which were new pieces commissioned by Derby Jazz. Taking the lace making industry of his native Nottingham as a source of inspiration Siegel composed a suite titled “Tales From The Jacquard” which was performed by his Jazz Orchestra as the ensemble undertook a short tour of the UK. The programme also included new big band arrangements of older pieces initially written for the quartet or for Partisans.

Despite being a highly creative musician with an international reputation Siegel has been comparatively under recorded. Partisans have released five albums over the course of their twenty year existence and Siegel’s own quartet a mere three.

The first of these, “Close Up”, dates back to 2002 and features the leader in the company of pianist Liam Noble, bassist Jeremy Brown and drummer Gary Husband. “Close Up” was good, but 2011’s follow up “Urban Theme Park” was even better, a modern British jazz classic featuring Siegel’s now regular working group comprised of Noble, bassist Oli Hayhurst and Partisans drummer Gene Calderazzo. Earlier in 2018 this line up released “Vista”, another excellent recording featuring ten new Siegel original compositions plus an inventive arrangement pianist Bud Powell’s “Un Poco Loco”.

In 2008 Siegel fronted a collaborative trio featuring the American musicians Greg Cohen (double bass) and Joey Baron (drums). This fruitful Trans-Atlantic alliance, originally the result of a Cheltenham Jazz Festival commission, is documented on the excellent two CD recording “Live At The Vortex” (Basho Records).

Tonight’s visit to Shrewsbury was part of a national tour to promote the “Vista” album undertaken with the support of the Arts Council of England. This generous financial assistance ensured that SJN were able to hire a ‘real’ piano for Noble’s use, a handsome Yamaha grand which sounded superb and added greatly to the success of the evening.  In 2013 Noble gave a superb performance at The Hive with his quintet Brother Face, a gig that was again part of an Arts Council supported tour and which again featured a ‘proper’ piano, this time a Kawai. My review of that performance can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/liam-nobles-brother-face-the-hive-arts-centre-shrewsbury-12-10-2013/

Siegel’s previous visit to The Hive had been in 2015 when he featured as a guest soloist with pianist and composer Andrew McCormack’s trio, an event that saw SJN hiring an acoustic upright piano for the leader. Shropshire jazz audiences may also remember Siegel bringing tonight’s quartet to The Edge Arts Centre in nearby Much Wenlock in May 2012.

I recently gave a favourable review to the “Vista” album but seeing the music performed “in the flesh” brought it even more alive. In this context one was able to appreciate all the more the subtleties of Siegel’s writing and the superb quality of the musicianship. This really was a tour in support of the new album with the quartet playing virtually the whole of the “Vista” repertoire, albeit in a slightly different running order, plus a couple of items from the back catalogue. What was even more impressive was the fact that the band achieved this without any recourse to sheet music, quite a feat considering the complexity of Siegel’s writing. It’s partly a matter of professional honour, exactly the same thing is encouraged with Partisans, and Siegel and his fellow musicians ,take great pride in the fact that they can remember the details of these often complex compositions in their heads. Likewise the absence of “the dots” encourages the improvisational process, Siegel and his colleagues like to take musical risks and in the true jazz spirit no two performances of these pieces are ever going to be exactly the same. Performances by the Julian Siegel Quartet are the type of roller coaster ride that possibly inspired the title of “Urban Theme Park”. This is music that is always on the move, and thrillingly so for both performers and listeners.

Siegel began on tenor sax as the quartet commenced with the first tune on the “Vista” album, the appropriately titled “The Opener”. Incorporating eloquent introductory solo statements from both Siegel and Noble this piece combined complex harmonic and rhythmic ideas with the kind of instinctive group improvising that only a quartet who have been together as long as this one can achieve, that perfect combination of tightness and looseness –an admirable tightness in the ensemble sections allied to an ‘in the moment’ looseness and fluency about the solos.

Siegel remained on tenor for “I Want To Go To Brazil”, his homage to the great Brazilian jazz composers such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal and Elis Regina.  This commenced with an intimate dialogue between the composer’s saxophone and Noble’s piano, the contemplative mood subsequently embellished by Hayhurst’s arco bass and Calderazzo’s cymbal shimmers and mallet rumbles. Then came a sudden change of gear which saw the piece explode into vibrant musical life with Siegel’s tenor taking flight above Hayhurst’s insistent bass pulse, Noble’s muscular left hand piano motifs and Calderazzo’s deft, polyrhythmic drumming. Noble followed with an agile, supremely fluent solo before handing back to Siegel. The piece may have been inspired by Brazil but was pleasingly free of the usual samba and bossa clichés.

“Song” is the album’s stand out ballad and was introduced by the trio of Noble, Hayhurst and Calderazzo, the latter providing an admirably delicate touch with the brushes. Following Siegel’s subsequent theme statement the first feature came from Hayhurst on double bass, his melodic solo combining a warm, round tone with an impressive lyricism. Noble and Siegel exhibited similar qualities in their solos as Calderazzo continued to provide sensitive accompaniment via a combination of brushes and mallets.

There was a diversion from the album running order as Siegel adopted a more muscular tenor sound on the powerful “Billion Years”, a piece also notable for Noble’s Monk-ish piano solo and something of a drum feature from the consistently impressive Calderazzo. The drummer is a musician who has acquired something of a cult following thanks to his dynamic performances, and I spoke to at least one audience member (another drummer, perhaps predictably) who was there specifically to see him.

A lengthy first set concluded with a segue of the title track from “Vista” and Cedar Walton’s “Fantasy in D”, a tune tackled by the quartet on their previous album “Urban Theme Park”.
“Vista” adopted an almost funk groove above which Siegel blew some gutsy tenor before handing over to Noble and Hayhurst, the bassist demonstrating great dexterity on a very different type of solo to his previous outing. Siegel’s tenor returned to provide the link into pianist Walton’s “Fantasy in D” , the quartet navigating the tricky contours of the piece with customary aplomb. A rollicking Noble piano solo was given impetus by Hayhurst’s rapid bass walk and Calderazzo’s crisp, dynamic drumming, the rhythm team also fuelling a similarly high energy solo from Siegel as the first half ended on a rousing, up-tempo note.

Set two began with another segue, the tunes this time both sourced from the “Vista” album. “The Goose” takes its title from Phil Robson’s name for Siegel’s bass clarinet but the piece itself was played on tenor with the leader taking the first solo, his probing playing representing an updating of the classic Blue Note sound of yore. Noble’s expansive feature offered further evidence of his status as one of Britain’s most distinctive and inventive piano soloists, with a style that is very much his own. Hayhurst also featured on double bass before the music segued into the more familiar realms of Bud Powell’s “Un Poco Loco”, the quartet’s version inspired by Powell’s recording of the tune with drummer Max Roach. Calderazzo’s colourful drumming was a feature of the piece, the clatter of his sticks on rims mirroring the twists and turns of his colleagues on Powell’s bop classic and helping to fuel the solos of Noble and Siegel.

“Pastorale” saw Siegel switching to soprano, his sound initially light and airy as he introduced the piece in a dialogue with Noble at the piano. This quirky piece embraced a variety of dynamic and stylistic contrasts with Noble’s crystalline piano juxtaposed against a darker, almost oboe like, soprano tone as the piece progressed. Hayhurst deployed both pizzicato and arco techniques but it was the conversation between Noble and Siegel that remained at the heart of the music.

Introduced here by Hayhurst’s strummed bass “The Claw” closes the “Vista” album and is the record’s lengthiest track. There’s something of the ‘spiritual jazz’ of John Coltrane about this piece as evidenced by Siegel digging in on tenor above a backdrop of Noble’s rolling piano chords and Calderazzo’s dynamic, Elvin Jones styled drumming. Following Noble’s piano solo the leader switched to soprano to deliver another, equally powerful solo, revelling in a Coltrane like intensity and density before finding redemption with a closing burst of melody.

An accomplished multi-reed player Siegel has featured the bass clarinet more frequently in recent years, both with Partisans and his solo projects. “Idea”, his feature on the instrument here, was little short of stunning – once he’d re-arranged the venue furniture to accommodate the ‘goose’. An extended dialogue between the leader’s bass clarinet and Calderazzo’s drums introduced the piece, Hayhurst and Noble eventually joining the party as Siegel picked out the melodic theme before commencing on a relatively more conventional jazz solo that incorporated some truly stunning playing, this was real virtuoso stuff. This celebration of the lower frequencies also featured a final solo from Hayhurst on double bass.

This was scheduled to be the final piece but such was the audience reaction that Siegel and his colleagues remained on stage to deliver “Room 518”, a tune dating back to the “Close Up” album from 2002. Effectively this was the encore and saw Siegel moving back to tenor for a marathon solo that made allusions to bebop but without ever becoming formulaic. Propelled by Hayhurst’s muscular bass lines this powerful piece also included final features from both Noble and the ever popular Calderazzo. The audience loved it, as yet another very special gig at The Hive came to a close.

This was state of the art contemporary jazz performed by a hugely talented and very well balanced quartet. Siegel’s music is constantly evolving but remains accessible despite its adventurousness. The audience thrilled to every twist and turn and complaints from the “I wish they’d played more standards” lobby were very few and far between – and in any case we did get Bud Powell and Cedar Walton, albeit in highly imaginative arrangements.

This was consistently exciting music, a kind of post bop if you will, that drew on elements of the past - bebop, hard bop, Coltrane – but filtered them through a very contemporary and personal prism. The self effacing Siegel really should be an even bigger star than he already is.

But it’s not just about the leader. The other members of the band are all exceptional talents and each shone individually as well as collectively. The hiring of the grand piano helped to put the icing on the cake of a superb all round show, a performance honed to perfection by the long association of the players and the current bout of touring. This is a quartet that is completely on top of its game, individually and collectively.

Julian Siegel Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/04/2018.

Julian Siegel Quartet

Monday, April 16, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

4-5 out of 5

Julian Siegel Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/04/2018.
Photography: Photograph by Hamish Kirkpatrick of Shrewsbury Jazz Network.

State of the art contemporary jazz performed by a hugely talented and very well balanced quartet that is completely on top of its game, individually and collectively.

Julian Siegel Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 14/04/2017.

This keenly anticipated performance by saxophonist and composer Julian Siegel and his quartet brought the fourth bumper crowd of the year to Shrewsbury Jazz Network’s monthly event The Hive.

I have long been an admirer of Siegel’s playing and composing,, whether fronting his own trios and quartets or co-leading the long running jazz rock group Partisans in partnership with guitarist and composer Phil Robson. In addition Siegel is also an in demand sideman, whether as a guest soloist with small groups or as a skilled and versatile section player in larger ensembles, these ranging over the years from the BBC Big Band to Django Bates’ Delightful Precipice.

In 2017 Siegel fulfilled a long term ambition by assembling his own stellar Jazz Orchestra to play his compositions, the majority of which were new pieces commissioned by Derby Jazz. Taking the lace making industry of his native Nottingham as a source of inspiration Siegel composed a suite titled “Tales From The Jacquard” which was performed by his Jazz Orchestra as the ensemble undertook a short tour of the UK. The programme also included new big band arrangements of older pieces initially written for the quartet or for Partisans.

Despite being a highly creative musician with an international reputation Siegel has been comparatively under recorded. Partisans have released five albums over the course of their twenty year existence and Siegel’s own quartet a mere three.

The first of these, “Close Up”, dates back to 2002 and features the leader in the company of pianist Liam Noble, bassist Jeremy Brown and drummer Gary Husband. “Close Up” was good, but 2011’s follow up “Urban Theme Park” was even better, a modern British jazz classic featuring Siegel’s now regular working group comprised of Noble, bassist Oli Hayhurst and Partisans drummer Gene Calderazzo. Earlier in 2018 this line up released “Vista”, another excellent recording featuring ten new Siegel original compositions plus an inventive arrangement pianist Bud Powell’s “Un Poco Loco”.

In 2008 Siegel fronted a collaborative trio featuring the American musicians Greg Cohen (double bass) and Joey Baron (drums). This fruitful Trans-Atlantic alliance, originally the result of a Cheltenham Jazz Festival commission, is documented on the excellent two CD recording “Live At The Vortex” (Basho Records).

Tonight’s visit to Shrewsbury was part of a national tour to promote the “Vista” album undertaken with the support of the Arts Council of England. This generous financial assistance ensured that SJN were able to hire a ‘real’ piano for Noble’s use, a handsome Yamaha grand which sounded superb and added greatly to the success of the evening.  In 2013 Noble gave a superb performance at The Hive with his quintet Brother Face, a gig that was again part of an Arts Council supported tour and which again featured a ‘proper’ piano, this time a Kawai. My review of that performance can be read here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/liam-nobles-brother-face-the-hive-arts-centre-shrewsbury-12-10-2013/

Siegel’s previous visit to The Hive had been in 2015 when he featured as a guest soloist with pianist and composer Andrew McCormack’s trio, an event that saw SJN hiring an acoustic upright piano for the leader. Shropshire jazz audiences may also remember Siegel bringing tonight’s quartet to The Edge Arts Centre in nearby Much Wenlock in May 2012.

I recently gave a favourable review to the “Vista” album but seeing the music performed “in the flesh” brought it even more alive. In this context one was able to appreciate all the more the subtleties of Siegel’s writing and the superb quality of the musicianship. This really was a tour in support of the new album with the quartet playing virtually the whole of the “Vista” repertoire, albeit in a slightly different running order, plus a couple of items from the back catalogue. What was even more impressive was the fact that the band achieved this without any recourse to sheet music, quite a feat considering the complexity of Siegel’s writing. It’s partly a matter of professional honour, exactly the same thing is encouraged with Partisans, and Siegel and his fellow musicians ,take great pride in the fact that they can remember the details of these often complex compositions in their heads. Likewise the absence of “the dots” encourages the improvisational process, Siegel and his colleagues like to take musical risks and in the true jazz spirit no two performances of these pieces are ever going to be exactly the same. Performances by the Julian Siegel Quartet are the type of roller coaster ride that possibly inspired the title of “Urban Theme Park”. This is music that is always on the move, and thrillingly so for both performers and listeners.

Siegel began on tenor sax as the quartet commenced with the first tune on the “Vista” album, the appropriately titled “The Opener”. Incorporating eloquent introductory solo statements from both Siegel and Noble this piece combined complex harmonic and rhythmic ideas with the kind of instinctive group improvising that only a quartet who have been together as long as this one can achieve, that perfect combination of tightness and looseness –an admirable tightness in the ensemble sections allied to an ‘in the moment’ looseness and fluency about the solos.

Siegel remained on tenor for “I Want To Go To Brazil”, his homage to the great Brazilian jazz composers such as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal and Elis Regina.  This commenced with an intimate dialogue between the composer’s saxophone and Noble’s piano, the contemplative mood subsequently embellished by Hayhurst’s arco bass and Calderazzo’s cymbal shimmers and mallet rumbles. Then came a sudden change of gear which saw the piece explode into vibrant musical life with Siegel’s tenor taking flight above Hayhurst’s insistent bass pulse, Noble’s muscular left hand piano motifs and Calderazzo’s deft, polyrhythmic drumming. Noble followed with an agile, supremely fluent solo before handing back to Siegel. The piece may have been inspired by Brazil but was pleasingly free of the usual samba and bossa clichés.

“Song” is the album’s stand out ballad and was introduced by the trio of Noble, Hayhurst and Calderazzo, the latter providing an admirably delicate touch with the brushes. Following Siegel’s subsequent theme statement the first feature came from Hayhurst on double bass, his melodic solo combining a warm, round tone with an impressive lyricism. Noble and Siegel exhibited similar qualities in their solos as Calderazzo continued to provide sensitive accompaniment via a combination of brushes and mallets.

There was a diversion from the album running order as Siegel adopted a more muscular tenor sound on the powerful “Billion Years”, a piece also notable for Noble’s Monk-ish piano solo and something of a drum feature from the consistently impressive Calderazzo. The drummer is a musician who has acquired something of a cult following thanks to his dynamic performances, and I spoke to at least one audience member (another drummer, perhaps predictably) who was there specifically to see him.

A lengthy first set concluded with a segue of the title track from “Vista” and Cedar Walton’s “Fantasy in D”, a tune tackled by the quartet on their previous album “Urban Theme Park”.
“Vista” adopted an almost funk groove above which Siegel blew some gutsy tenor before handing over to Noble and Hayhurst, the bassist demonstrating great dexterity on a very different type of solo to his previous outing. Siegel’s tenor returned to provide the link into pianist Walton’s “Fantasy in D” , the quartet navigating the tricky contours of the piece with customary aplomb. A rollicking Noble piano solo was given impetus by Hayhurst’s rapid bass walk and Calderazzo’s crisp, dynamic drumming, the rhythm team also fuelling a similarly high energy solo from Siegel as the first half ended on a rousing, up-tempo note.

Set two began with another segue, the tunes this time both sourced from the “Vista” album. “The Goose” takes its title from Phil Robson’s name for Siegel’s bass clarinet but the piece itself was played on tenor with the leader taking the first solo, his probing playing representing an updating of the classic Blue Note sound of yore. Noble’s expansive feature offered further evidence of his status as one of Britain’s most distinctive and inventive piano soloists, with a style that is very much his own. Hayhurst also featured on double bass before the music segued into the more familiar realms of Bud Powell’s “Un Poco Loco”, the quartet’s version inspired by Powell’s recording of the tune with drummer Max Roach. Calderazzo’s colourful drumming was a feature of the piece, the clatter of his sticks on rims mirroring the twists and turns of his colleagues on Powell’s bop classic and helping to fuel the solos of Noble and Siegel.

“Pastorale” saw Siegel switching to soprano, his sound initially light and airy as he introduced the piece in a dialogue with Noble at the piano. This quirky piece embraced a variety of dynamic and stylistic contrasts with Noble’s crystalline piano juxtaposed against a darker, almost oboe like, soprano tone as the piece progressed. Hayhurst deployed both pizzicato and arco techniques but it was the conversation between Noble and Siegel that remained at the heart of the music.

Introduced here by Hayhurst’s strummed bass “The Claw” closes the “Vista” album and is the record’s lengthiest track. There’s something of the ‘spiritual jazz’ of John Coltrane about this piece as evidenced by Siegel digging in on tenor above a backdrop of Noble’s rolling piano chords and Calderazzo’s dynamic, Elvin Jones styled drumming. Following Noble’s piano solo the leader switched to soprano to deliver another, equally powerful solo, revelling in a Coltrane like intensity and density before finding redemption with a closing burst of melody.

An accomplished multi-reed player Siegel has featured the bass clarinet more frequently in recent years, both with Partisans and his solo projects. “Idea”, his feature on the instrument here, was little short of stunning – once he’d re-arranged the venue furniture to accommodate the ‘goose’. An extended dialogue between the leader’s bass clarinet and Calderazzo’s drums introduced the piece, Hayhurst and Noble eventually joining the party as Siegel picked out the melodic theme before commencing on a relatively more conventional jazz solo that incorporated some truly stunning playing, this was real virtuoso stuff. This celebration of the lower frequencies also featured a final solo from Hayhurst on double bass.

This was scheduled to be the final piece but such was the audience reaction that Siegel and his colleagues remained on stage to deliver “Room 518”, a tune dating back to the “Close Up” album from 2002. Effectively this was the encore and saw Siegel moving back to tenor for a marathon solo that made allusions to bebop but without ever becoming formulaic. Propelled by Hayhurst’s muscular bass lines this powerful piece also included final features from both Noble and the ever popular Calderazzo. The audience loved it, as yet another very special gig at The Hive came to a close.

This was state of the art contemporary jazz performed by a hugely talented and very well balanced quartet. Siegel’s music is constantly evolving but remains accessible despite its adventurousness. The audience thrilled to every twist and turn and complaints from the “I wish they’d played more standards” lobby were very few and far between – and in any case we did get Bud Powell and Cedar Walton, albeit in highly imaginative arrangements.

This was consistently exciting music, a kind of post bop if you will, that drew on elements of the past - bebop, hard bop, Coltrane – but filtered them through a very contemporary and personal prism. The self effacing Siegel really should be an even bigger star than he already is.

But it’s not just about the leader. The other members of the band are all exceptional talents and each shone individually as well as collectively. The hiring of the grand piano helped to put the icing on the cake of a superb all round show, a performance honed to perfection by the long association of the players and the current bout of touring. This is a quartet that is completely on top of its game, individually and collectively.


blog comments powered by Disqus

JAZZ MANN FEATURES

Emulsion Festival VII, Day One, Hexagon Theatre, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, 02/11/2018.

Emulsion Festival VII, Day One, Hexagon Theatre, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, 02/11/2018.

An intriguing evening of music making that once again mixed genres at a whim. Ian Mann on the latest edition of Trish Clowes' Emulsion Festival, w. guest musicians Alexander Hawkins & Percy Pursglove.


Sunday at Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, Market Hall, Abergavenny, 02/09/2018.

Sunday at Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, Market Hall, Abergavenny, 02/09/2018.

Ian Mann enjoys the Jazz Alley and Charity Swing Party events at the Market Hall with performances by Wonderbrass, Tarion, Rebelinx and The Electric Swing Circus.


JAZZ MANN RECOMMENDS