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Kristian Borring

Silent Storm


by Ian Mann

August 03, 2016


A hugely enjoyable album that finds Borring at the top of his game, both in terms of playing and composition.

Kristian Borring

“Silent Storm”

(Jellymould Jazz JM-JJ024)

“Silent Storm” is the third album release as a leader by the Danish born, London based, guitarist and composer Kristian Borring. Borring first came to London to study at the Guildhall School of Music and he has been resident in the English capital for the past ten years and has established himself as a significant presence on the UK jazz scene. He has also studied in Amsterdam with Jesse Van Ruller and Martijn van Iterson and in New York with Peter Bernstein, all of these guitar tutors having a considerable influence on his later style.

Borring released his début album, the promising but rather slight “Nausicaa”, on the Ultra Sound record label in 2011 before making the move to Jellymould Jazz for whom he recorded the much improved “Urban Novel” (2014). “Silent Storm” continues to chart Borring’s progress as a composer with another strong collection of tunes and a broadening of the guitarist’s musical stylistic palette.

Borring’s technical ability as a guitarist has never been in question and I recall being very impressed with him on the only occasion that I’ve seen him perform live, this as part of a quartet led by the Italian born saxophonist Tommaso Starace at The Hive in Shrewsbury in 2011. Borring has also worked with Polish born vocalist Monika Lidke and as one half of a duo with pianist Bruno Heinen, these two releasing the album “Postcard To Bill Evans” in 2015.

“Silent Storm” features Borring’s long running quartet comprised of pianist Arthur Lea, drummer Jon Scott and bassist Mick Coady, the latter having taken over from Spencer Brown around the time of “Urban Novel”. “Nausicaa” featured a number of guest appearances by saxophonist Will Vinson while “Urban Novel” sometimes augmented the quartet with the talents of vibraphonist Jim Hart.  However, “Silent Storm” sees the focus firmly on the core group over the course of ten highly accomplished Borring originals.

As a guitarist Borring’s influences are impressively broad as he revealed to Peter Bacon in a recent interview for the London Jazz News website. He began by listening to blues and hard rock (BB King, AC/DC, Van Halen, Nirvana, Alice In Chains) before moving on via Radiohead and Joe Satriani to the fusion of Pat Metheny, John Scofield, the Brecker Brothers and Chick Corea. Working his way further back he discovered jazz guitarists Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery plus other great jazz players of different instruments such as saxophonists John Coltrane, Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond plus pianists Herbie Hancock, Red Garland, Bud Powell and Brad Mehldau. His writing has also been influenced by 20th century classical composers such as Alban Berg, Igor Stravinsky and Charles Ives.

Borring’s first two albums featured him deploying a cool, clean guitar sound that evoked inevitable comparisons with Metheny plus contemporary guitarists such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brad Shepik and Ben Monder. On “Silent Storm” he allows himself the opportunity to ‘muddy the waters’ a little by periodically reintroducing something of the rock and fusion sounds that he loved during his youth. This results in Borring’s most varied album to date, and arguably his best.

The success of the new record is a tribute not only to Borring’s continued growth as a composer but also to the excellent rapport of the quartet. “Silent Storm” was recorded in a single 24 hour session immediately following a successful seven date tour. The music sounds thoroughly ‘played in’ and the chemistry between the members of the group is apparent throughout with all four musicians playing an integral part in the music. The improvisation and group interplay is sharp and tightly focussed with Borring leaving plenty of space and opportunity for his colleagues to shine, this isn’t just a ‘guitarist’s album’.

The initial piece, “When He Goes Out To Play”, is an attention grabbing opener with its complex but accessible theme and intricate group interplay. But there’s also a bristling sense of energy with Borring deploying a slightly distorted tone that is vaguely reminiscent of John Scofield. The leader shares the spotlight with Lea who develops his piano solo intelligently and organically above Coady’s powerful bass grooves and the colourful chatter of Scott’s drums. An excellent start as Borring immediately brings those fusion influences to the table.

The energy levels are maintained on “Ton” which is introduced by the bustling bass and drum grooves of Coady and Scott. Borring adopts a more orthodox jazz guitar sound but there’s no let up in the levels of invention as he solos in typically agile fashion. Lea delivers a barnstorming piano solo, the notes cascading from his finger tips as he rides the fiercely swinging grooves now being laid down by an exceptional rhythm section. In this commendably democratic unit Coady and Scott also get their moment in the spotlight with a vigorous and enjoyable set of bass and drum exchanges. 

The elegant ballad “April Fools” cools things down a little with Borring exhibiting his Metheny-like gift for melody and adopting an appropriately warm hued guitar tone to match. Coady again impresses, this time with a different kind of bass solo, his playing still highly dexterous but also warmly melodic. Lea eventually emerges from the shadows to deliver a flowing, Jarrett like solo above Scott’s busy, but always tasteful, drum accompaniment.

“Intro To Islington Twilight” is a gently chiming passage of solo guitar that constitutes a delightful prelude to the main piece and functions as something of a ‘calm before the storm’.

“Islington Twilight” itself has an edgy, unmistakably urban vibe constructed around an insistent bass pulse and Scott’s hip hop inspired drum grooves, these topped by Borring’s light and airy melodic flourishes. Eventually the piece appears to collapse in upon itself, paving the way for a more impressionistic closing section featuring Borring’s ambient guitar loopings. It’s a piece that has evoked comparisons with the work of Manchester based guitarist and soundscaper Stuart McCallum. 

Running to over nine and a half minutes the episodic “Everyman” represents the album’s lengthiest track, passing through several different phases but never losing the melodic focus that distinguishes Borring’s writing. The leader probes deep with an intense and feverish guitar solo before the tension is dissipated via Lea’s unaccompanied piano passage, this followed by a more conventional jazz solo. The piece also includes an evocative drum feature for the consistently excellent Scott.

“Cool It” is based on the Sonny Rollins composition “Airegin” and represents a nod in the direction of the late Jim Hall who famously worked with Rollins in the 1960s. Borring adopts a conventional jazz guitar sound with a singing tone that is reminiscent of Hall’s. His solos have something of Hall’s cool elegance and easy fluency and there’s also a sparkling, boppish piano solo from the consistently impressive Lea plus a further feature for busy drummer Scott.

The title track is a drifting ballad in waltz time with a folk inspired melody. It has a wistful quality and a spaciousness that reminded me of Metheny tunes such as “Farmer’s Trust” and “Travels”, something further encouraged by Scott’s sympathetic brushwork.   

“Nosda” combines quietly insistent grooves with airy melodies and includes relaxed and fluent solos from both Borring and Lea. 

Finally we hear “Fable”, the second piece to tip its hat in the direction of the late, great Jim Hall. Borring introduces the tune with a brief passage of unaccompanied guitar before soloing with an understated fluency that again recalls Hall’s style. It’s the most obviously ‘old school’ style piece on the album and also includes a pleasantly quirky double bass feature from Coady plus a gently swinging piano solo from Lea.

“Silent Storm” is a hugely enjoyable album that finds Borring at the top of his game, both in terms of playing and composition. He has gathered together another impressive collection of strong themes, the inherently melodic compositions also packed with plenty of harmonic and rhythmic interest. Lea, Coady and Scott all make major contributions too, supporting the leader with imagination, intelligence and acumen and also shining brightly on their own individual features. This feels like a ‘proper’ working band throughout, with a flexible and intelligent rapport honed by several years of playing together.

For my money “Silent Storm” just edges “Urban Novel” for the accolade of “Borring’s best album to date”. I’m also certain that this is music that will also work effectively in the live environment and I hope to catch the quartet somewhere along the line during their forthcoming tour. Dates as shown below;   

Spotted Dog, Birmingham (23 Aug)
SUJC, Bournemouth (24 Aug)
Pizza Express, London (30 Aug)
The Lescar, Sheffield (31 Aug)
Dempsey’s, Cardiff (7 Sept)
Jazz East, Felixstowe (11 Sept)
Future Inn, Bristol (18 Sept)
Southampton Jazz Club (20 Sept).

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