Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


by Ian Mann

October 09, 2018


Another impressive offering from Graeme Wilson. His writing is consistently adventurous, often playful, and explores a variety of jazz styles and genres. He is well served by an excellent quartet.

Graeme Wilson Quartet


(Pleasureland Records)

“Abscondit” is the second release from this quartet led by tenor saxophonist and composer Graeme Wilson. It represents a follow up to 2016’s excellent début “Sure Will Hold A Boat”, a recording favourably reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann.

The new album features the same line up as its predecessor with Wilson, who is also credited with flute and balofon, joined by Paul Edis (piano, keyboards), Andy Champion (acoustic & electric bass) and Adam Sinclair (drums & percussion). Sinclair and Champion are also involved in the production and engineering process. “Abscondit” appears on Wilson’s own record label, which takes its name from this quartet’s 2015 EP “Pleasureland”.

Originally from Glasgow Wilson spent over a decade in the North East of England, where his three colleagues reside,  before relocating again to Edinburgh. He has previously appeared on the Jazzmann web pages in reviews of albums by Edis’ sextet and by ACV, the jazz/prog combo led by Champion. Wilson has also worked with vocalist Ruth Lambert, guitarist Mark Williams,  composer and arranger John Warren, the saxophone quartet Saxophonics, and with the Glasgow Improvisers and Voice of the North jazz orchestras.

“Abscondit” presents eight new original compositions from Wilson recorded at various locations in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Gateshead. Once again the music is rooted in the jazz tradition but borrows freely and imaginatively from other musical genres to give the music an agreeably quirky and contemporary edge.

A case in point is opener “Hyvot Mill” which combines Scottish folk melodies with funky Rhodes driven grooves and extended bursts of fluent, jazzy tenor sax soloing from the leader. Edis (also a highly accomplished classical musician I’m told) here stretches out effectively on electric piano, adopting the classic Fender Rhodes sound.

“Profane Drawings of Trees” commences in classic Coltrane modal manner but takes plenty of twists and turns during its nine minute plus duration. Prog inspired changes of pace and clusters of notes combine with Latin inflections as Wilson, again on tenor, and Edis, on acoustic piano, once more deliver powerful and highly inventive solos. Champion’s muscular double bass helps to drive the music forward, at one point in conjunction with the leader’s tenor only. The bassist and drummer Sinclair are a supple and highly inventive rhythm section who offer powerful and responsive support to soloists Wilson and Edis. Sinclair also impresses on his own account with a dynamic drum feature in the closing stages of the piece.

Champion is also to the fore on “A Raised Eyebrow”, a duo recording featuring just tenor sax and double bass captured at Champion’s home studio in Gateshead. His rich, resonant and hugely dexterous double bass is the perfect foil for the leader’s conversational but authoritative tenor. There’s clearly a great rapport between Wilson and Champion on an inspired duet that holds the listener’s attention from start to finish.

The hard grooving “Why Are You Staring At Me?” finds the quartet striking out into quasi acid jazz territory as Champion moves to electric bass and Edis adapts an organ sound on his keyboards, coming over like a Geordie amalgam of Jimmy Smith, James Taylor and Dr. Lonnie Liston Smith. As ever the writing is multi faceted on another lengthy piece that is more than just a sax and Hammond jam as Wilson stirs in more prog and folk influences alongside the jazz flavoured meat and potatoes. There’s some mercurial organ soloing from Edis, a brief electric bass feature for Champion and plenty of muscular r’n’b flavoured tenor sax blowing from the leader. Exhilarating stuff.

“After School” is a vehicle for Wilson’s highly accomplished flute playing. The intro features multi-layered flutes, created either by studio overdubbing or live looping techniques. There’s a lively, lilting, Afro-Brazilian feeling about the music that is very uplifting with solos coming from the leader on flute and Edis on sparkling acoustic piano. This is also the piece that features Wilson on balofon and Sinclair on both kit drums and percussion. As is typical of Wilson’s compositions the piece takes plenty of twists and turns along the way and represents an intriguing and hugely enjoyable slice of musical exotica.

The cryptically titled “The Bings” demonstrates Wilson’s skill as a tenor sax balladeer, his tough but tender soloing complemented by shimmering Rhodes (Edis also solos), tasteful electric bass and subtle but colourful drums and percussion.

“The Bold Sammy” re-introduces the quartet’s funk leanings, juxtaposing them with some M-Base style complexities to give the music a feel that is more New York than Newcastle. Wilson solos with muscular, fluent authority above the tight, propulsive grooves laid down by his colleagues with Edis exhibiting similar powers of invention in a solo that deploys a variety of electric keyboard sounds. There’s also something of a drum feature for the consistently impressive Sinclair.

The closing “Friction Motor” is an invigorating acoustic jazz workout powered by Champion’s rapid bass walk and Sinclair’s dynamic drumming that features Edis’ cascading, highly physical McCoy Tyner-esque piano and the leader’s barnstorming tenor. Their powerful solos are punctuated by mind boggling but brilliantly executed stop-start interludes. There’s also room for a vigorously brushed drum feature from Sinclair and some dazzling “Flight Of The Bumblebee” styled unison sax and piano phrases.

“Abscondit” represents another impressive offering from Graeme Wilson. His writing is consistently adventurous, often playful, and explores a variety of jazz styles and genres, sometimes within the course of a single tune. Although he’s also an accomplished baritone saxophonist and bass clarinettist Wilson largely focusses on the tenor here and does so to good effect. That said, the single flute feature is also highly impressive and punctuates the album well.

Wilson is well served by an excellent quartet with the brilliant Edis frequently threatening to steal the show with some inspired soloing on both acoustic and electric keyboards. The powerful but supple and flexible rhythm section of Champion and Sinclair supplies the soloists with the fire and impetus they need, while impressing in their own right.

“Abscondit” is a very worthy follow up to “Sure Will Hold A Boat” and will hopefully receive a similarly positive response. The Graeme Wilson Quartet is more than simply a good ‘regional group’, these are musicians who deserve to be nationally known – and I’d assume that they’re a hugely exciting live act.

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