by Ian Mann
November 04, 2011
A guitarist of enormous technical ability who utilises his considerable gifts thoughtfully and tastefully.
(Ultra Sound Records US-CD076/5)
Kristian Borring is a Danish guitarist and composer now based in London following his completion of a Masters degree at The Guildhall in 2006 after previous studies in Holland. Now a well established figure on the UK jazz scene Borring’s début album features his regular British quartet consisting of pianist Arthur Lea (Paragon, Seb Pipe), bassist Spencer Brown (Porpoise Corpus) and drummer Jon Scott (Kairos 4tet, Paragon). The line up is augmented on three of the eight original pieces by saxophonist Will Vinson, a musician born in the UK but now resident in New York where he is building an increasingly impressive reputation.
I saw Borring perform live in September 2011 as part of saxophonist Tommaso Starace’s quartet at a gig at The Hive in Shrewsbury. It was immediately apparent that he was a guitarist of enormous technical ability and that he was capable of utilising his considerable gifts thoughtfully and tastefully. These are also qualities that he brings to his own recording. There are no guitar histrionics on “Nausicaa”, instead the music evolves gradually and logically through a series of often lengthy compositions.
All the tunes are Borring’s and the album commences with “Below Sea Level” a ten minute piece that features Borring’s elegant single note improvising and sophisticated chording. There are hints of Pat Metheny but also of more contemporary players such as Brad Shepik, Ben Monder and Kurt Rosenwinkel, the latter having worked with Vinson in New York. Elsewhere the piece features Lea switching between Fender Rhodes and acoustic piano and contributing a flowing, lyrical solo on the latter. Scott brings brings the same kind of detail and nuance to his playing that he displays as a member of Kairos 4tet and Brown proves to be a supple and adaptable bassist.
“The Famous G” is more groove based with Brown leading things off and providing a strong grounding presence throughout in tandem with Scott’s shuffling grooves. Lea’s Rhodes chording underpins Borring’s nimble guitar soloing before assuming the lead. Here, as elsewhere, Borring favours a pure guitar sound with little in the way of effects.
The tricky, boppish “Last Whistle” adds Will Vinson to the proceedings, the saxophonist linking up well with Borring on some fiendishly tricky unison melody lines before the pair embark on their solos with Borring going first. Vinson’s fluent, pure toned alto follows and there’s also a series of lively breaks from Scott at the drums. Vinson is a player who has grown in stature since I caught his performance at the 2009 Cheltenham Jazz Festival, a concert that was frustratingly cut short by a power cut at the Everyman Theatre.
“Invisible Lady” is a lengthy ballad that begins with the sound of Borring’s solo guitar before developing into a sumptuous Lea piano solo. Borring’s own solo contains some of the most orthodox “jazz” guitar of the set backed by Scott’s neatly energetic drum work. Bassist Spencer Brown also steps forward with a deeply resonant solo backed by Scott’s chattering drums and Lea’s sparse piano chording.
The title track is inspired by Princess Nausicaa who assisted Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey. It’s a typically episodic piece of writing with Vinsons pure toned sax prominent in the mix. Following the theme statement he digs deep in his solo, consistently pushing and probing, before eventually handing over to the warm tones of Borring. Vinson returns to restate the theme before something of a drum feature for Scott in the tune’s closing stages.
As the title suggests “Lucinda’s Dream” is a second ballad feature notable for Borring’s rosy, Metheny like guitar and Lea’s delicate piano lyricism, both well supported by Brown’s sonorous bass and Scott’s characteristically sympathetic drumming.
“Clapton Cowboys” (I’d like to know the story behind that title) marks the final appearance from Vinson and is a gently upbeat piece of post bop that allows the saxophonist plenty of room to stretch out with a lithe and fluent solo before handing over to the equally agile Borring. The support from the rhythm team on this often complex piece is as assured as ever.
To end there’s a brief reprise of the theme from “Nausicaa”, a duet for just guitar and piano.
“Nausicaa” represents an assured and promised début from this highly accomplished guitarist and composer. Having witnessed Borring live I can attest first hand as to his technical abilities. He’s also an interesting writer but having said that none of his themes here is particularly memorable and arguably some of the pieces are over-long. The sometime presence of Vinson gives the programme a considerable boost but the core quartet of Borring, Lea, Brown and Scott is also a well balanced unit and everybody plays well throughout.
Rather like “Do Or Die”, the recent release by fellow guitarist Mark McKnight, the album sometimes seems a little too polite. However when McKnight took the music on the road in the company of tenor titan Seamus Blake the material seemed to take on a life of its own. The McKnight/Blake gig at Dempsey’s, Cardiff was one of the unexpected highlights of the year so far. Whether Borring can achieve quite the same level of lift off remains to be seen but the core quartet are currently touring the UK. The remaining dates are;
Friday 11 November
19:30* Tickets: £10/8
Spice of Life 6 Moor St, London W1D 5NA
Tel: 020 7437 7013 http://www.spiceoflifesoho.com
* opening set before Kristian joins Alicia Hart Band with Esben Tjalve on piano for the second set.
Weds 16 November
20:00* Tickets: £10/8
Green Note * ALBUM LAUNCH *
106 Parkway Camden NW1 7AN
Tel 020 7485 9899 http://www.greennote.co.uk * opening set on double bill with TROYKA
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