by Ian Mann
February 02, 2018
An impressively mature and well rounded recording that promises much for the future.
Matthew Read Trio
Winchester born, London based Matthew Read is a young bassist and composer who plays both the acoustic and electric versions of his chosen instrument. He studied bass with Tom Mason at Alton College, Hampshire, a fertile musical breeding ground that has also schooled trumpeter Laura Jurd, keyboard player Dave Morecroft and many others.
Read subsequently moved on to the Guildhall School of Music in London where he obtained a First Class Honours Degree in Jazz. In 2016 he was the recipient of the Dankworth Prize for big band composition and arranging.
Read has worked prolifically as a sideman, often with bands featuring fellow Hampshire or Guildhall alumni, but his main creative outlet is his trio featuring guitarist Benedict Wood and drummer Arthur Newell, both also Guildhall graduates. This latest recording, due for release on February 9th 2018 represents a follow up to the trio’s 2016 début “Anecdotes”.
Describing his writing methods Read has said;
“I decided to write music for the trio that told stories. I felt early on that this band was one that would respond well to slightly more left field forms of inspiration than other bands I have played in”.
“What’s nice about “Anecdotes Vol. 2” is that whilst the first album was telling my story the new one is telling our collective story. We’ve spent so much time rehearsing, playing, travelling and generally hanging out together that the new tunes are based on our joint experiences”.
Born into a jazz loving family Read has cited the influence of a broad range of musical styles including jazz, folk, country, hip hop, dance music, spirituals and various forms of English and American church music.
The classic ‘ECM’ sound has been a profound influence on all three members of the trio with Read naming some of the bassists who have been associated with the label as particular inspirations for his own playing, among them Thomas Morgan, Larry Grenadier, Dave Holland and the late, great Charlie Haden.
“Anecdotes II” features eleven original compositions, ten from the pen of Read and one from Wood. The album was recorded in Wales at StudiOwz by engineer Owain Fleetwood Jenkins with the group deploying retro recording equipment to achieve the kind of spacious sound balance that they were looking for.
The album begins with the chilly atmospherics of “Snow Part 1” featuring Wood’s Frisell like guitar, Newell’s drum colourations and the almost subliminal drone of Read’s bowed bass.
This acts as a kind of overture or ‘curtain raiser’ as the next piece “Many Roads Travelled” quickly kicks in, an altogether more muscular affair that espouses a more conventional jazz sound, albeit one with a decidedly contemporary edge. Wood probes deeply and intelligently on his solo, mixing lithe single note lines with intelligent chording. Read’s forceful bass playing sets the pace and drives the tune, and he also impresses with a dexterous, big toned solo. Newell’s neatly energetic drumming incorporates elements of colourisation, commentary and punctuation and embraces a wide dynamic range. It’s an intelligent, colourful performance that includes a brief solo cameo.
Wood’s contribution with the pen is “Surprise Flight” which again features his agile but understated guitar sound as he takes the first solo, expertly shadowed by Read and Newell. This is indeed a very well balanced trio, especially for such a young band. Read is again featured as a soloist while Newell provides intelligent and colourful percussive detail throughout.
The enigmatically titled “Burford Brown” commences with a passage of solo double bass and this piece represents something of a showcase for Read’s virtuosity. But this is not mere grandstanding, the piece is as carefully constructed and sympathetically played as any other on the album with Wood again coming to the fore later on in the tune.
The lovely ballad “When She Leaves”, featuring Newell sympathetically deploying brushes throughout, has the kind of melody that Pat Metheny would be proud of. Read delivers a gorgeously melodic double bass solo, his tone rich and woody. Meanwhile Wood’s guitar playing exhibits a contrasting cool elegance.
The trio’s love of the ECM sound has been implied throughout the album thus far but reaches its apotheosis on “In Motian”, a hauntingly beautiful dedication to the late, great drum colourist Paul Motian, a veteran of many an ECM recording session as both leader and sideman. Read’s tune is an atmospheric lament that features the composer on both melancholy, cello like bowed bass and resonant pizzicato. Wood limits himself to sparse, gentle chording while Newell acquits himself superbly in a Motian-esque colourist’s role.
The trio pick up the pace again with “K”, which imagines a collaboration between pioneering contemporary jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and the rapper Kendrick Lamar. Introduced by Newell at the drums and driven by Read’s forceful, insistent bass groove the piece allows Wood to stretch out, alternating jagged chording with fluent single note runs. Ultimately it owes more to Kurt than Kendrick but it’s still one of the album’s most arresting and immediate pieces.
“Revolutions” finds young fogey Read mourning the loss of traditional formats such as the LP and CD. The music harks back in time too, it’s the most obviously bebop inflected piece on the album with Wood adopting an orthodox jazz guitar sound and Read playing walking bass lines. Newell enters into the spirit of things and gets to enjoy a brushed drum feature.
The spooky “They Know, You Know?” has something of the feel of a David Lynch movie soundtrack with Read’s pizzicato bass taking the lead against a backdrop of ethereal guitar atmospherics plus mallet rumbles and cymbal shimmers.
The title of “Burke & Hare” references the notorious 19th century Edinburgh based serial killers who sold the bodies of their victims for anatomical research. Given the subject matter Read’s melody, as played by Wood, is almost implausibly jaunty, although a darker harmonic undercurrent emerges within the piece.
The album concludes by bookending the opening track with a more extended item titled “Snow Parts 1 & 2”. More direct and melodic than its early counterpart this full length version is almost anthemic at times with chiming, soaring lead guitar underpinned by busy bass and drums with Newell particularly animated at certain junctures.
“Anecdotes II” represents an impressive statement from the Matthew Read Trio. In many respects it doesn’t sound like the work of a young band as they avoid the ‘punk jazz’ clichés, although having said that a little more aggression wouldn’t have gone amiss on occasion.
On the other hand despite their avowed love of the ECM sound it doesn’t feel as if they’re merely recycling the past either. This is a band who have already established a strong group identity – and if they’re “in the tradition” then it’s very much their own tradition. For all its spaciousness and intelligence “Anecdotes II” sidesteps the now familiar ECM clichés too. It’s an impressively mature and well rounded recording that promises much for the future.
The Matthew Read Trio are currently touring the UK. The remaining dates are listed below;
• 2nd - Jazz Cafe, Newcastle
• 3rd - Zeffirellis, Ambleside
• 5th - Kenilworth Jazz Club
• 6th - Slouch, Glasgow
• 7th - The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
• 8th - Tchai Ovna, Glasgow
• 9th - Cafe Lento, Leeds
• 10th - Pizza Express, Maidstone
• 11th - Southampton Modern Jazz Club
• 13th - The Spotted Dog, Birmingham
• 15th - Kansas Smitty’s, London
• 16th - The Cornerhouse, Winchester
• 18th - Hot Numbers, Cambridge
• 22nd - Cafe Jazz, Cardiff
• 8th - The Forge, Basingstoke
• 15th - Norden Farm Centre For the Arts, Maidenhead
• 11th - Speakeasy, Torquay
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Matthew Read: http://www.matthewreadbass.co.uk/