by Ian Mann
September 06, 2012
4 Sided Triangle is an impressive London/Bristol alliance led by saxophonist and composer Kevin Figes. A group that has the potential for considerable cross genre appeal.
4 Sided Triangle
“4 Sided Triangle”
(Pig Records PIG 02)
4 Sided Triangle is new group led by Bristol based saxophonist and composer Kevin Figes. A stalwart of the Bristol scene Figes is also well regarded just across the border in South Wales and he also works regularly with London based musicians. In other words Figes is a regional player with a national reputation.
For a number of years Figes led a successful post bop quartet featuring Bristol based Jim Blomfield on piano and organ plus the London rhythm team of Riaan Vosloo (double bass) and Tim Giles (drums). This group has released two enjoyable and wide ranging albums, “Circular Motion” on Edition Records (2007) and 2010’s “Hometime”, the first release on Figes’ own Pig Records imprint.
Figes new group sees him exploring a more frankly funk/fusion direction with a line up featuring Mike Outram on guitar, Dan Moore on Fender Rhodes and Daisy Palmer at the drums. Outram is a well known figure on the London jazz scene who has worked with Asaf Sirkis, Tony Woods, Dave O’ Higgins and many others. Moore plays Hammond in Bristol based saxophonist James Morton’s exciting and high powered band Pork Chop. Palmer deps regularly for Clive Deamer in Get The Blessing and is also a well regarded session musician who has worked regularly with Goldfrapp. Like Figes’ previous quartet 4 Sided Triangle is an impressive London/Bristol alliance.
Figes cites the main influences on the music of 4 Sided Triangle as being Chris Potter’s “Underground” project, Miles Davis’ “Live Evil” and Soft Machine. The programme consists of seven Figes originals plus an intriguing cover of Badfinger’s pop hit “Name Of The Game” written by the late Peter Ham. The Davis influence is implicit in the title of the opening “Evel Minx” which features Figes rasping menacingly on baritone above the clipped funk grooves of Outram, Moore and Palmer. Outram demonstrates his chops with some typically scorching guitar work and Moore’s keyboards are authentically low down and dirty. Palmer provides the unerring groove.
Figes sticks to baritone for a surprisingly effective cover of the Badfinger number that retains the tune’s song-like qualities. The leader’s sound is less rough edged than on the opener and Outram and Moore also adopt softer tones. Essentially this is a ballad performance and succeeds in being surprisingly moving.
Whether Figes took the group’s name from the 1953 Hammer horror film of the same name (directed by Terence Fisher) is unclear but Outram’s guitar atmospherics give “Reflection” an appropriately spooky feel. The warmth of Figes’ tone provides a pleasing contrast on this floaty, relatively freely structured item.
“Rising” features a shuffling funk groove which fuels appropriately earthy/fiery solos from Moore, Figes and Outram. There’s a real jam band feel about this that the group revisit on later cuts “The Bear” and “The Grind”.
“September” effects a slinky, seductive groove with Figes on warm sounding alto and with Outram pleasingly idiosyncratic on guitar. A vaguely Middle Eastern/North African element is occasionally detectable in Figes’ sound on one of the album’s more intriguing pieces.
Superficially “Still” is as contemplative as its title might suggest with Outram on semi acoustic and with Figes maintaining his warm alto tone. However the rumble of Palmer’s mallets and Outram’s tautly picked rhythmic parts suggest a subtle air of underlying menace.
This is perhaps more fully expressed on the following “The Bear”, a rollicking blues/rock/funk number featuring the full but impressively lithe sound of Figes on baritone and Outram at his rockiest with a searing solo. Moore lays down funk bass lines on his Rhodes and Palmer’s drumming is unashamedly rock. There’s some awesome riffage here and overall the piece is great fun. It must have been a huge favourite on the group’s Jazz Services supported tour which took place in June/July 2012 with Bristolian drummer Mark Whitlam deputising for Palmer who was engaged elsewhere (presumably with Goldfrapp).
The album closes with the unpretentious funky jam band blowing of “The Grind” with Figes on alto and with Moore cutting loose with a funky and inventive Rhodes solo. I’d like to have heard something of Moore on Hammond too, he’s superb on that instrument as a member of James Morton’s Pork Chop but maybe Figes just didn’t want his group categorised as yet another organ combo.
There may not be anything startlingly original about 4 Sided Triangle but there is still much to enjoy about this album and I’ve no doubt that the group can really cut the mustard live. With Palmer’s almost universally rock drumming and with hefty dollops of funk and soul this is a group that has the potential for considerable cross genre appeal- again like Pork Chop, a group that I can personally endorse as an exciting and hard grooving live act. However 4 Sided Triangle prove that their jazz chops are pretty impressive too, everybody plays well with Figes work on baritone adding a particularly distinctive element. There’s considerable sophistication in some of the writing too. All in all an enjoyable and worthy effort with much to recommend it.
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