by Ian Mann
June 15, 2018
An impressive statement from Anderson that reveals him to be an excellent composer and arranger as well as a highly fluent and eloquent saxophone soloist.
Matt Anderson Quartet
(Jellymould Jazz JM-JJ030)
Matt Anderson is a Yorkshire born, London based saxophonist and composer who has worked with guitarists Jamie Taylor and Jiannis Pavlidis and pianist Mark Donlon among others. He studied at Leeds College of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music, his tutors including a veritable list of famous jazz names from both sides of the Atlantic. Besides the names mentioned above he has performed with many of the UK’s leading jazz musicians, again a list too exhaustive to reproduce in full here.
In 2014 Anderson was featured on the début album by Jamie Taylor’s Outside Line quartet. In the same year he made his own début as a leader fronting the Wayne Shorter inspired Wildflower Sextet, a stellar group of young British musicians drawn from the Leeds and London scenes including rising star Laura Jurd on trumpet plus guitarist Alex Munk, pianist Jamil Sheriff, bassist Sam Vicary and drummer Sam Gardner. In January 2015 I enjoyed a live performance by this line up at The Hive Music & Media Centre in Shrewsbury, with my subsequent review also taking a look at the group’s début album, also released on the Jellymould Jazz imprint.
That article can be read here;
It was in 2015 that Anderson, playing tenor saxophone, and Jiannis Pavlidis on guitar recorded the duo album “Alone Together”, released on New Jazz Records and currently only available as an on line release on Bandcamp. https://mattandersonjiannispavlidisduo.bandcamp.com/releases
In 2017 he was the winner of the Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition and his new quartet album “Rambling” places a greater emphasis on his original writing than the earlier “Wildflower” release. The new album fuses jazz and folk influences and is a reflection on Anderson’s rural upbringing in the North Yorkshire moors and his love of walking and the British countryside.
“Rambling” features a core quartet of Anderson on tenor and alto saxes, Peter Lee on piano, Will Harris on double bass and Jay Davis at the drums. Several pieces feature a larger ensemble with trumpeter Nick Malcolm, trombonist Owen Dawson and guitarist Aubin Vanns appearing on half of the album’s ten tracks.
The guests feature on the opening “Jig, Jag, Jug” which commences with the warm textures of an unaccompanied horn chorale, an allusion, possibly to the Yorkshire brass band tradition. But this multi-faceted piece quickly changes direction as the rest of the band enter the proceedings, establishing a vibrant, Latin inflected groove that is punctuated by more reflective episodes featuring Vanns on guitar and Anderson himself on tenor. There’s also some exquisite interplay between the horns with Malcolm proving to be a significant presence. This is a piece that ebbs and flows effortlessly, reflective perhaps of the Yorkshire landscape, and it’s the composition that helped to win Anderson the Dankworth Prize.
The press release accompanying the album mentions the influence of Scandinavian jazz and this is reflected in the title of “Nordic Blues”, a gently brooding piece that features the ramblings of Vanns’ elegant, inventive blues infused guitar. He solos with a cool, effortless fluency. Anderson himself responds on slow burning alto above the economic grooves of the rhythm section as Malcolm and Dawson add weight to the ensemble sound while providing a welcome splash of extra colour and texture.
The guests then take an extended rest as the core quartet take over for the next three tracks, beginning with the reflective “October Ending”. Lee’s sombre and economical solo piano intro sets the tone before Anderson’s tenor smoulders effectively above the subtle rhythms and colourations of Harris and Davis. The bassist adds a concise, melodic solo before handing back to the leader. Anderson’s soloing, punctuated by a brief passage from Lee, becomes increasingly anthemic as the energy levels subtly increase. The piece then resolves itself with a gently atmospheric and reflective coda.
“Count Up / Tune Down” is an Anderson composition based on John Coltrane’s “Countdown”, a kind of ‘contrafact’ if you will. It offers an alternative view of Coltrane with Anderson and the quartet avoiding mere pastiche. Lee gets the chance to shine with a thoughtful piano solo while the leader is assured and fluent, but never bombastic, on tenor as the spirit of Coltrane is filtered through a bucolic English lens.
Harris’ bass introduces “It’s Later Than You Think”, another lyrical and reflective item played in the style of a ballad with Anderson’s gently keening sax leading the way. Harris’ bass solo is both lyrical and melodic while the leader explores in delicately probing fashion in a style that has variously been compared to that of Wayne Shorter and Mark Turner. Lee adds a succinct solo and pithy, subtly witty piano commentary while Davis is the epitome of tasteful restraint with the brushes.
Anderson has performed in New Zealand, an experience that doubtless informs the title of “Long White Cloud (Interlude). The guest horn players return to help fashion a ghostly opening horn chorale with the instruments treated to a dash of echo from recording engineers Alex Bonney and Peter Beckmann. One can indeed imagine the Southern Alps wreathed in cloud. Subsequently an angular groove emerges which provides the framework for an agile trombone solo from Dawson, again treated to a dash of echo, that fades out far too soon on a piece that appears to be an edit of a much longer group performance.
Davis’ colourful drumming introduces “Metaphorical Gardening”, another quartet item with extended solos from Anderson and Lee that give both musicians the scope to demonstrate their abilities. It’s Lee’s lengthiest excursion to date and a good illustration of his abilities as soloist.
“The Ayes Have It” is the final quartet offering and this time it’s Harris’ turn to introduce it with a dexterous passage of unaccompanied double bass. Subsequently he establishes a propulsive groove that helps to fuel some of Anderson’s most powerful soloing of the set. Mixing bop flavourings with more contemporary influences the piece also incorporates a more freely structured central section featuring Lee’s thoughtful pianism before ultimately taking a more muscular turn once more.
The title of “Norrebro” again suggests a Scandinavian influence. It also marks the return of the guest musicians to the fold with Malcolm delivering a memorable trumpet solo, combining beauty and fluency with imagination and inventiveness. Lee, too impresses, with an expansive but typically thoughtful contribution at the piano. Anderson is characteristically eloquent on saxophone and there’s also a feature for the excellent Davis at the drums, in addition to some fine ensemble playing.
The album concludes with a brief reprise of the opening “Jig, Jag, Jug” with the horns of Anderson, Malcolm and Dawson again intertwining while underscored by the rhythm section.
“Rambling” has been well received by other commentators and it represents an impressive statement from Anderson that reveals him to be an excellent composer and arranger as well as a highly fluent and eloquent saxophone soloist. Everybody plays well although I’d have liked to have heard a little more from Lee as a soloist, without the guests on board one suspects that the quartet’s live shows will allow the pianist more of an opportunity to demonstrate his abilities.
That said the collective presence of the guests is a very welcome one. Some of the album’s most effective pieces are those featuring a sextet or septet and the blend of Anderson’s sax with the other two horns is particularly captivating.
Everybody involved on the album can take great pride in their contribution but ultimately it’s Anderson’s record and he acquits himself superbly throughout. If there’s a quibble it’s that the music occasionally sounds a little bloodless and overly academic, but one suspects that many of these pieces will take on a life of their own in live performance.
Anderson and his quartet will launch the album on 20th June 2018 at The Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, London and will then be touring extensively during the rest of the year with forthcoming live dates listed below;
Matt Anderson Quartet - ‘Rambling’ Album Launch Vortex Jazz Club London 20/06/18 8:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet The Flute and Tankard Cardiff, Wales 27/06/18 8:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet Matt and Phreds Manchester 28/06/18 9:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet 1000 Trades Birmingham 29/06/18 8:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet HEART Leeds 30/06/18 8:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet St. Ives Jazz Club St. Ives 28/08/18 8:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet The Bristol Fringe Bristol 29/08/18 8:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet SoundCellar Poole, Dorset 30/08/18 8:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet The Jazz Bar Edinburgh 03/10/18 8:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet Scat 23 Jazz Glasgow 04/10/18 8:00pm
Matt Anderson Quartet Hackensack Cardiff 01/11/18 8:00pm
More information at http://www.matt-anderson.org.uk
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