by Ian Mann
June 10, 2014
With its focus on mood, melody, nuance, texture and ensemble playing "In Flight" represents a remarkable début from such a young band.
The Slowlight Quartet
“In Flight EP”
The Slowlight Quartet are a group of young musicians based in the North East of England. Operative for just over a year they have acquired something of a cult following in their native region with Lance Liddle of the Bebop Spoken Here blog reporting on a sell out crowd for their recent EP launch date at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle. The group have received funding from Jazz North as part of their “Northern Line” initiative and have been regulars at well known Northern venues such as Matt & Phreds in Manchester and Zeffirelli’s in Ambleside. An appearance at Gateshead International Jazz Festival has helped to boost the group’s profile and they are also due to appear at the Manchester and Lancaster jazz festivals during 2014.
The quartet consists of keyboard player Paul Loraine, saxophonist Tom Quilliam, drummer Jonathan Marriott and bassist Ian “Dodge” Paterson who very kindly forwarded me a copy of this limited edition EP.
The group purveys a brand of melodic contemporary jazz that acknowledges the influence of E.S.T., Portico Quartet, the Neil Cowley Trio and the Cinematic Orchestra and they have supported Cinematic guitarist Stuart McCallum at a number of his solo shows. Slowlight’s EP launch saw them performing with a string quartet and accompanying cinematic images, further evidence both of where they’re coming from and of their considerable ambition.
All five of the pieces on the group’s début EP were written by pianist/keyboardist Paul Loraine and the programme begins with the title track which is introduced by the gentle ruminations of the composer’s keyboards. Tenor sax, double bass and drums are incrementally introduced but the focus remains on mood, texture and gradual melodic development rather than conventional jazz soloing. There is a considerable maturity about the way the band take their time and allow their ideas to develop organically while making commendably effective use of space. When Quilliam is finally given his head at the end of the tune with the rest of the band kicking in the music takes flight in the manner of one of Jack Wyllie’s soaring sax melodies with Portico Quartet.
Introduced by solo double bass “Shifting Ground” also develops gradually with Quilliam’s tenor gently probing above the undulating backdrop of piano, bass and drums. There’s the same sense of patient development before a subtle shift of direction mid tune introduces a greater concentration on the groove with Quilliam switching from tenor to soprano before eventually cutting loose.
“Iris” also begins with Paterson’s bass and exhibits the same kind of patient development while remaining closer in spirit to a true ballad with pianist and composer Loraine at his most lyrical, sympathetically supported by tenor sax rich, resonant double bass and delicately nuanced drums.
The richly atmospheric “Peregrine” begins in now typically quiet fashion with fragments of piano and tenor melody above Marriott’s gentle mallet rumbles. Melodic and harmonic development finds Quilliam briefly stretching out before a return to the pastoral and lyrical with sensitive solos for piano and double bass. In now familiar fashion the tune regains momentum in its closing stages and the group add a touch of humour with a series of playful but tantalising false endings.
Finally we hear “Walking Spanish”, another Paul Loraine original and seemingly nothing at all to do with the Tom Waits song of the same name from the wonderful “Raindogs” album. What we do have is a brief but gently atmospheric piece of chamber jazz with Loraine and Quilliam doubling up on the melody almost throughout shadowed by Paterson’s bass and Marriott’s ethereal cymbal shimmers. It’s tantalisingly short but undeniably beautiful, almost Scandinavian in feel.
With its focus on mood, melody, nuance, texture and ensemble playing “In Flight” represents a remarkable début from such a young band. The quiet start and gradual, unhurried development becomes something of a cliché after a while but there’s no denying Loraine’s melodic gift and the fact that his tunes develop in subtle and interesting ways. The playing is excellent throughout, both individually and collectively, and the band are well served by engineer Liam Gaughan who captures their subtleties well.
This is readily accessible music and it’s easy to see why the quartet have built a strong regional following, particularly as I suspect that their live performances may be rather less reined in. A 2013 four track live EP which is available to hear at the band’s website http://www.theslowlightquartet.co.uk certainly suggests as much with Quilliam in more forceful mood on tenor and with a greater emphasis on hard driving grooves. This is an admirably versatile young group.
The Slowlight Quartet have a number of other live dates scheduled for 2014. Itinerary as follows;
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June 13th 1pm - Lit and Phil, Newcastle
June 28th 8pm - Zeffirelli’s, Ambleside
July 18th 8.30pm -West Jesmond British Legion, Newcastle
July 21st 2pm - Manchester International Jazz Festival,
Sept 20th 3pm - Lancaster Jazz Festival