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Outside Line

Introducing Outside Line


by Ian Mann

March 05, 2014


Interesting compositional ideas from guitarist Jamie Taylor and some fine playing by four of the most accomplished musicians in the North of England.

Outside Line

“Introducing Outside Line”

(GLP Records)

Although the album title might suggest otherwise the line up of the quartet Outside Line includes some very experienced musicians. Guitarist and leader Jamie Taylor lives in Sheffield but is a teacher on the jazz faculty at Leeds College of Music as are his band mates Garry Jackson (double bass) and the vastly experienced Dave Walsh (drums). These three came together as a band in 2012 with recent College graduate Matt Anderson (tenor sax) completing the line up. Taylor is part of pianist Jamil Sheriff’s Big Band and all four musicians are part of Leeds Creative Music Co-operative or CMC.

The new group’s aim is to take the guitar/tenor quartet format and present in a different light through the use of long form composition allied to straight ahead “changes” improvising. In addition to this the quartet also include freer, less structured elements plus the kind of cross genre stylings that can loosely be described as fusion. These various strands are brought together over the course of two three part suites, both composed by Taylor. In days of yore each suite would have constituted one side of a vinyl LP.

The hypothetical “Side One” consists of the “Someone New Suite” and begins with the lengthy “Someone New” itself. This begins in atmospheric fashion with producer Sam Hobbs adding subtle electronic colorations to the already fascinating textures generated by the four musicians. In time Anderson’s tenor picks out the theme of a composition inspired by the writing of the late Paul Motian. Motian’s influence can also be heard in the drumming of Dave Walsh, his task that of colourist rather than timekeeper in a role that he pulls off to perfection. Anderson and Taylor skirt lightly around the sounds of a rhythm section that in Taylor’s words “provide momentum without meter”. In time Walsh and Jackson generate a more orthodox groove, this influenced by Keith Jarrett, and Taylor solos in relaxed fashion deploying a relatively conventional jazz guitar sound. He’s succeeded by Jackson’s muscular but flexible bass with Anderson eventually taking over on gently probing tenor.

The second part of the suite is “Fugue (Hazy)” which begins with a passage of solo guitar before evolving into a three way conversation between Taylor, Anderson and Jackson that makes effective use of counterpoint and is inspired by Jimmy Guiffre’s classic “The Train And The River”. The piece is a charming miniature with Walsh’s drums only featuring in the tune’s closing stages.

The closing movement is the appropriately named “The Optimist”, the buoyant mood emphasised by Taylor’s bright, Metheny-esque guitar and the warm tone of Anderson’s tenor. The saxophonist takes the first solo stretching out joyously above Walsh’s ever evolving drum commentary. He’s followed by the elegant Taylor on fluently languid guitar.

There’s a change of direction on “side two” with the “Three Colours; Blues Suite”. As the title suggests the three components take the traditional blues format as their source material. Nevertheless the quartet still manage to put their own contemporary stamp on the proceedings.

The lively opener “Canon For Cannon” initially finds Taylor and Anderson working together in tandem above a brisk blues groove. Taylor and Anderson solo fluently above Jackson’s propulsive bass walk and Walsh’s neatly energetic drumming, the latter full of delightful small details. Walsh even gets the opportunity to enjoy a series of solo drum breaks as the music progresses. It has been suggested that Cannonball Adderley is the source of inspiration here.

“Always Rising” deploys an unusual 5/4 groove which has the effect of being vaguely unsettling. The title comes from a series of climbing chord changes which provide the framework for cogent solos from Taylor and Anderson plus something of a cameo from Walsh in the final stages.

The piece virtually segues straight into the closing “Dig Doug” which builds from Jackson’s solo bass intro into a powerful tenor led blues riff. This provides the jumping off point for an urgent Taylor solo, strongly supported by bass and drums. This metamorphoses into an extended dialogue between Jackson and Walsh before Anderson takes over, soling at length before dovetailing neatly with Taylor as the tune nears its conclusion.

“Introducing Outside Line” includes some interesting compositional ideas from Taylor and some fine playing by four of the most accomplished musicians in the North of England. The two suites are very different in character, “Someone New” is the more contemporary and experimental, “Three Colours” more earthy and with deeper roots in the jazz and blues traditions. For many listeners this “Blues Suite” will also be the most accessible. For me Taylor and the quartet strike a good balance between the contemporary and the traditional and although the album doesn’t pull up any trees it fulfils it’s aims admirably. Seeing this music performed live offers an intriguing and no doubt enjoyable prospect. I’d urge readers in the North to look out for Outside Line.

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