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BATL Quartet

Brandon Allen / Tim Lapthorn Quartet, The Hive Music & Media Centre, Shrewsbury, 11/05/2019.

Photography: Photograph by Hamish Kirkpatrick of Shrewsbury Jazz Network.

by Ian Mann

May 14, 2019


Ian Mann enjoys the music of this new quartet co-led by tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen and pianist Tim Lapthorn and looks ahead to their forthcoming debut album.


Brandon Allen – tenor saxophone, Tim Lapthorn – keyboard, Tim Thornton – double bass, Dave Ingamells - drums

Tonight’s performance represented a third visit to The Hive as a leader or co-leader by the Australian born, London based, tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen.

In 2014 Allen fronted a quartet featuring pianist Steve Melling and the Midlands based rhythm section of bassist Tom Hill and drummer Miles Levin with the focus then firmly on the standards repertoire.
Review here;

In 2017 he returned with his Gene Ammons Project, celebrating the music of the late and rather neglected American saxophonist, in the company of Ross Stanley on keyboards, Arnie Somogyi on double bass and Matt Home at the drums.
Review here;

That same quartet subsequently appeared on the album “The Gene Ammons Project”, a recording that garnered considerable acclaim from the critics, including myself. Review here;

Allen also leads a sextet featuring Stanley on keyboards, Sam Mayne on alto sax and flute, Mark Nightingale on trombone, Sam Burgess on double bass and Ian Thomas at the drums - a fairly regular working unit but one that is yet to record.

Allen has also appeared on the Jazzmann web pages as the co-leader, with British trumpeter Quentin Collins, of a hard hitting quartet featuring Stanley on organ and Enzo Zirilli on drums. This band, also sometimes known as Drugstore Cowboy, released the highly enjoyable album “What’s It Gonna Be?” in 2011 and  followed this in 2015 with the deceptively titled “Beauty in Quiet Places”.  Other sightings of Allen have been in the bands of guitarists Nigel Price, Chris Allard and fellow Aussie Blake Wilner and of drummers Dylan Howe and Clark Tracey. He has also been part of Sax Appeal, led by fellow saxophonist Derek Nash.

Allen also enjoys a high profile engagement as part of the London based quintet led by the American bassist and composer Kyle Eastwood, a band that also includes Collins on trumpet and flugel, Andrew McCormack on piano and Chris Higginbottom at the drums. This line up appears on Eastwood’s most recent album release “In Transit”, which also features contributions from Italian saxophonist Stefano Di Battista on alto and soprano. 

In addition to his jazz output Allen is also a prolific session musician who has appeared with a wide variety of pop, soul and rock acts. He is also an acclaimed educator, offering private tuition as well as holding a Professorship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. A brief foray into music promotion also saw him organising London’s Highgate Jazz Festival.

Tonight’s band, dubbed the BATL Quartet is a new project that tonight teamed Allen with co-leader Tim Lapthorn plus two of the most prolific young rhythm players on the London jazz scene, bassist Tim Thornton and drummer Dave Ingamells.

I first became of Lapthorn over a decade ago thanks to two excellent trio albums released on the Basho Record label, 2004’s “Natural Language”, featuring bassist Tom Herbert and drummer Patrick Levett, and 2006’s “Seventh Sense” with the new rhythm team of Arnie Somogyi on bass and Stephen Keogh at the drums. At around this time I saw Lapthorn’s trio perform an early evening show at St. Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, London, one of a series events organised by Christine Allen of Basho Music.

I also recall seeing the trio of Lapthorn, Somogyi and Keogh opening for Cedar Walton at Ronnie Scott’s at the 2010 London Jazz Festival. Indeed Lapthorn is something of a fixture at Ronnie’s, often forming part of the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars group that frequently opens the show for illustrious overseas visitors. I’ve also heard Lapthorn perform with Somogyi’s Ambulance group and as part of bands led by vocalist Georgia Mancio, saxophonist Josh Kemp and electric bass specialist Laurence Cottle.

BATL differed from the other groups that Allen has brought to The Hive in that the emphasis today was very much on original material from the pens of the co-leaders, with Allen claiming the lion’s share of the credits. I’ve always regarded Allen as a particularly incisive and hard hitting soloist but tonight’s performance revealed a gentler side to his playing, something encouraged by his growing fascination for the music of Stan Getz.

From that trio show at Ronnie’s I recall Lapthorn being a particularly self effacing performer so it came as no surprise that he left all of the announcing duties to Allen, and in many respects it was difficult not to think of BATL as essentially Allen’s band.

Allen and Lapthorn have worked together for sixteen years and play together regularly in various line ups at Ronnie’s, so the formation of the BATL Quartet very much feels like a natural progression, particularly as the saxophonist has started to compose more and requires an outlet for his writing. Apparently the regular rhythm section features Somogyi and the young drummer Lloyd Haines, the latter a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff. Nevertheless Thornton and Ingamells, both highly competent and versatile players, seemed to fit in easily tonight on the first date of a tour that will resume at the end of May when Allen returns from a series of dates in France with Kyle Eastwood.

Tonight’s performance commenced with Allen’s “Gone But Not Forgotten”, a dedication to the late Graham Wood, the late Australian pianist who was something of a mentor to Allen in his early years. Wood was the founder of Perth Jazz and the first head of the jazz department at the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts in Allen’s home city of Perth. Most of tonight’s originals were very much ‘in the tradition’ and this Allen composition had something of the feel of a standard about it. Appropriately the piece began in piano trio mode with Lapthorn taking the first solo, adopting an electric piano sound on his Roland keyboard. Allen followed on tenor with Thornton also chipping in at the bass.

Also by Allen “Lazy Day” boasted a suitably sunny and breezy melodic theme that provided the jumping off point for a solo that saw the composer probing more deeply as he stretched out on tenor. He was followed by Lapthorn, who now favoured a more conventional acoustic piano sound.

BATL’s début album, recorded live at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club in March 2019 is due for release in June 2019 and will be titled “Gone But Not Forgotten”. It will include Lapthorn’s “Return To Life”, a lively Latin-esque piece that tonight featured the composer again adopting an electric piano sound that somehow reminded of the CTI records of the 1970s. Following Allen’s introductory theme statement Lapthorn took the first solo at the keyboard. Whenever I’ve seen him play live he has performed shoeless, and tonight was to prove no exception. Allen weighed in with a powerful tenor solo, urged on by the driving rhythms generated by Thornton and Ingamells. Thornton’s feature saw him displaying a real agility and dexterity on the bass, as well as a strong melodic sense as he quietly sang along with his solos.

The first cover of the evening was the beautiful John Coltrane ballad “Dear Lord”, originally recorded in 1965 but released posthumously in 1970 as part of the “Transition” album. It’s a piece that Allen had played at Ronnie’s as part of a Coltrane tribute and tonight featured Allen’s nuanced and textured ballad playing alongside further solos from Lapthorn on acoustic piano and Thornton on melodic double bass.

Coltrane was obviously a huge influence on Allen but his love of the playing of Stan Getz was also expressed in an Allen original titled “Running Away With Me”, that also drew inspiration from pianists Chick Corea (particularly the composition “Captain Marvel”) and Bill Evans. Allen’s tenor sound was softer than of yore, reflecting that Getz influence, as he shared the solos with Lapthorn on acoustic piano and Ingamells with a neatly constructed drum feature.

Set two commenced with another Allen original, this time paying tribute to another famous musician and with the punning title “A Corea In Music”(groan). As befits the title this was a cheerful piece with a catchy theme that prompted solos from Lapthorn on electric piano, Allen on tenor and Thornton on bass.

Also by Allen “A Little Love Song” was a jazz waltz inspired by the music of Weather Report- “I hope we sound like an acoustic version of that band” explained Allen. This was a lovely, melodic ballad that saw Ingamells playing with brushes almost throughout as Thornton took the first solo followed by Lapthorn, who actually deployed an electric piano setting. The musically subsequently gained greater momentum as Allen stretched out more expansively on tenor.

A further Allan composition was dedicated to his infant son, Theodore. This was a playful and relaxed piece that reflected the happiness and pride of the new father with solos again coming from Lapthorn on electric piano, the composer on tenor and Thornton on bass. The latter impressed throughout the evening and was given plenty of opportunity to express himself as a melodic and highly convincing bass soloist. Thornton is also a bandleader himself with two album releases to his credit.

Lapthorn’s compositional contribution to the second set was the ballad “Cuckoo”, which he introduced with an extended passage of unaccompanied acoustic piano. With Ingamells again deploying brushes Allen adopted the classic tenor ballad sound, his tone rounded and slightly breathy, with subtle blues inflections. Meanwhile the composer was flowing and lyrical on acoustic piano.

Finally Allen’s “Frack The Right”, a titled with lightly veiled political implications, saw Allen finally unleashing a harder edged sound with a strident tenor solo that recalled the classic hard bop sound, while also sneaking in a suggestion of wilful, avant garde dissonance. Lapthorn favoured an acoustic piano sound as he too stretched about above the propulsive grooves generated by Thornton’s rapid bass and Ingamells’ insistent ride cymbal.

The quartet remained on stage to deliver the deserved encore, Allen’s arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Picture In Black And White”, as inspired by the version by Joe Henderson. That said it was still in keeping with the Getz theme with Allen adopting a deep, resonant sound on tenor as he stretched out on a marathon solo. Lapthorn continued with the acoustic piano sound for his own feature and we also enjoyed a final solo from the consistently excellent Thornton.

This had been a highly enjoyable evening of contemporary jazz, perhaps less experimental than some of the recent events at The Hive (Duncan Eagles, Asaf Sirkis) but no less rewarding for that. Despite the frequent use of an electric piano sound inspirit this felt like an acoustic performance with Allen playing unhooked and often off mic. It certainly revealed a new side of the saxophonist’s playing, generally more gentle and restrained than of yore and with a far greater emphasis on original composition, a side of his talent that Allen is obviously keen to explore.

That said I’d have liked to have heard a bit more of Lapthorn’s writing, particularly after enjoying the original compositions on the “Natural Language” and “Seventh Sense” albums.

I’ll be interested to hear the BATL album when it finally reaches the market place.

Meanwhile the remaining BATL tour dates, presumably with Somogyi and Haines, are listed below;

30th May   BATL Duo @ Renaissance piano shop and Café
24th June   Cadogan Hall Foyer, London (Jazz Series)
26th June   Brandon Allen Masterclass/concert @ The Purcell School
9th July      Masterclass/concert at The Guildhall, London
19th July    Oliver’s Jazz Bar (Greenwich)
22nd July   Early show @ Ronnie Scott’s
23rd July   Early show @ Ronnie Scott’s
24th July.   Early show @ Ronnie Scott’s
25th July    The Fox (Twickenham)
26th July    Llandudno Jazz Festival playing “Gene Ammons”
27th July    The Archduke (Waterloo)
28th July    Boaters (Kingston)
29th July    The Late Late Show @ Ronnie Scott’s playing “Transition”
31st July     Swansea Jazzland (Wales)
1st August   The Sound Cellar (Poole)
3rd August   Clun Valley Jazz (Shropshire)
18th August   The Oval Tavern (Croydon)
24th August   The 606 Club, Chelsea, London
29th August    Jazz Steps (Nottingham)
30th August   Hampstead Jazz Club
13th September    The Vortex, Dalston, London
More tour dates to be announced! 

Further information at

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