by Ian Mann
November 05, 2021
Brady’s decision to ‘turn electric’ has proved to be an inspired choice and the music on this album also represents a fitting tribute to the departed Larry Coryell, who sowed the seed for the project.
The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet
(Ubuntu Music UBU0091)
Kevin Brady – drums, Bill Carrothers – Fender Rhodes, Seamus Blake – tenor saxophone, Dave Redmond – electric bass
Kevin Brady is one of the most in demand jazz drummers in Ireland. The Dublin based musician has appeared on the JazzMann web pages on numerous occasions, initially back in 2006 with the album “New Light”, recorded by the organ trio Organics, a combo that featured Brady at the drums alongside John Moriarty on guitar and Justin Carroll on the mighty Hammond B3. Review here;
The Organics album also revealed Brady to be an accomplished composer and this aspect of his talent can also be appreciated through the music of his long running international piano trio featuring the Irish bassist Dave Redmond and the American pianist and composer Bill Carrothers.
This line up first came together in 2006 and has since toured regularly, in addition to releasing three studio albums, “Common Ground” (2007), Zeitgeist” (2009) and “Ensam” (2016), the last named featuring a guest vocal from the great Norma Winstone.
I saw the trio perform at the 2011 Brecon Jazz Festival and very much enjoyed their playing in a set that unfortunately had to be truncated due to logistical difficulties (i.e.. flight delays) and was further hampered by an unsympathetic venue, the sports hall at Christ College.
In addition to his work as a leader Brady has been a prolific sideman, often working with illustrious American jazz visitors to the Emerald Isle. The full international list includes guitarists Larry Coryell, Peter Bernstein, Lage Lund, Tommy Halferty and Nir Felder, saxophonists Seamus Blake, Bobby Watson, Ronnie Cuber, Pee Wee Ellis and Perico Sambeat, trumpeter Guy Barker, pianists Randy Ingram, Jason Rebello and Lars Jansson, organist Brian Charette and vocalists Norma Winstone, Ian Shaw and Van Morrison.
He has also supported vocalists Kurt Elling and Gil Scott Heron, pianist Andrew Hill and the bands Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and E.S.T.
Brady and Redmond appear on the recently issued album “Last Swing In Ireland”, the final studio recording of the late, great Larry Coryell (1943 – 2017). Review here;
Brady’s latest project, his Electric Quartet, takes the core trio of himself, Redmond and Carrothers and adds the talents of tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, a musician born in the UK, raised in Vancouver and now resident in New York, where he is considered to be one of the real heavyweights of that city’s jazz scene, playing with leading American and international jazz musicians and holding down the tenor chair in the Mingus Big Band.
Not that Blake has entirely forgotten his British / Irish roots. In 2011 I was lucky enough to see him performing live at Dempsey’s in Cardiff as part of a quartet led by the Belfast based guitarist and composer Mark McKnight. It was a highly memorable gig that included a barnstorming display from Blake. Review here;
I subsequently covered Blake’s own live album “Live at Small’s”, recorded at the New York City jazz club with a stellar quintet featuring guitarist Lage Lund, pianist Dave Kikoski, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Bill Stewart. Review here;
The idea for Brady to record in an electric format initially came from the late Larry Coryell, as Brady explains when discussing the sound of “Plan B”;
“This is one of the most musically connected experiences that I have had since my first outing as a leader in 2007. While I was working with the late great guitarist Larry Coryell, I had many insightful discussions with him about music. His suggestion for my group to explore a change to an electric format was hugely influential on my new musical direction. I had been performing with Bill Carrothers and Dave Redmond in a piano trio for many years and I was excited to hear how we would perform with this new instrumentation. The inclusion of my friend and wonderful saxophonist Seamus Blake made a significant impact on how the trio performed. Seamus added an incredible musical dimension and texture to the compositions. His musicality added so much to the work. The music whether simple or complex was brought to another level by Bill and Dave’s strong melodic and rhythmic understanding and intuition. I believe that each composition—whether groove based, free or in odd meters—encapsulates and blends elements of musical styles that each musician in this quartet really enjoys playing.”
Electric era Miles Davis and the Headhunters band led by Herbie Hancock have been suggested as influences for Brady’s Electric Quartet. Personally I’m reminded of the more contemporary sounds of saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s group with electric keyboard specialist Jason Lindner, electric bass maestro Tim LeFebvre and drummer extraordinaire Mark Guiliana.
The material on “Plan B” is comprised of eight original compositions, five from leader Brady and a further three from Carrothers.
In fact it’s one of Bill’s that kicks things off as his “Airbourne” sets the scene, introduced by the composer on Rhodes and with Brady and Redmond establishing a stealthy, mobile groove that forms the basis for Blake’s tenor sax soloing. In terms of both power and fluency I’ve always regarded Blake as the natural heir to the late, great Michael Brecker, and I also hear something of Chris Potter in his sound, too. The saxophonist is followed by Carrothers, playing an authentic 70s Fender Rhodes that Brady sourced for him in Dublin prior to the album recording at Arthouse Studios in Naas Co. Kildare. Carrothers conjures a fascinating array of sounds from the instrument and brings the same levels of inventiveness and imagination to the electric keyboard as he has previously done to the acoustic piano. Redmond’s bass is featured prominently in the mix and his agility on the instrument is a distinctive component of the music. Leader Brady holds it all together from the kit, mixing power with precision and rhythmic solidity with splashes of colour and detail.
Brady’s own “Plan B” is introduced by a combination of bass and drums, these joined by the plaintive wail of Blake’s tenor and Carrothers’ keyboard colourations. The saxophonist then stretches out more expansively, followed by a thoughtful solo from Carrothers on Rhodes above the fluid rhythms of Redmond and Brady. Blake then returns to continue his saxophonic ruminations on this atmospheric and intriguing piece.
Carrothers takes up the compositional reins again for “Short ‘N’ Sweet”, which rather contradicts its title by lasting for a fraction under nine minutes. Musically it’s something of a tour de force, building from a gentle sax/Rhodes opening to embrace an urgent bass and drum groove, above which the opening snippet of sax melody now flies. Blake continues to stretch out, probing deeply and mercurially above the polyrhythmic rumble of Brady’s drums. Carrothers adopts the classic Rhodes sound for his solo as Brady continues to dazzle at the kit, the piece culminating in something of a drum feature.
A sequence of Brady originals follows, commencing with the free-wheeling, “Spindletop”, which combines an ostinato bass pulse with a rolling drum groove to create the framework for typically fluent, muscular and inventive solos from Blake and Carrothers.
As its title might suggest “Quiet Beach” presents a gentler side of the band, a contemporary ballad that finds Blake playing with a quietly simmering intensity before Redmond steps right out of the shadows for the first time to deliver a liquidly melodic electric bass solo. Carrothers is subtly exploratory on Rhodes, with Brady subtly steering things from the kit. There’s then a dramatic change of pace as the leader’s drums take over and the tempo increases dramatically, with Blake’s tenor taking flight. Perhaps the schizophrenic structure of this piece is a commentary on the vagaries of the Irish weather.
Ushered in by Carrothers at the Rhodes “Out Of The Blue” finds Blake brooding eloquently over a fluid bass and drum groove, giving the piece an updated ‘modal’ feel. Carrothers subsequently takes over to solo with a feverish inventiveness on Rhodes, before Blake makes his return, the piece subtly fading away to finish with just the leader’s drums.
The nine minute “Wanderlust” begins quietly with gently chiming ‘musical box’ Rhodes, subsequently joined by sax, drums and bass as Blake takes up the theme. A mood of quiet reflection imbues the performances with Carrothers soloing on gently trilling Rhodes and Blake on ruminative tenor sax. Brady’s subtle polyrhythmic flow recalls drum colourists such as Paul Motian and Jon Christensen.
The album concludes with the upbeat funk of the Carrothers composition “Suicide Squeeze”, with Redmond’s percolating electric bass and Brady’s shuffling drum patterns providing an infectious momentum for the exploratory solos of Blake and Carrothers. It’s a great way to end an excellent album.
As an experiment “Plan B” succeeds magnificently. The intelligent and multi-faceted writing of Brady and Carrothers ensures that this is far more than just another ‘fusion’ album. Brady’s decision to ‘turn electric’ has proved to be an inspired choice and the music on this album also represents a fitting tribute to the departed Larry Coryell, who sowed the seed for the project.
Of course the presence of the great Seamus Blake is an asset to any recording but the playing of the original trio of Brady, Carrothers and Redmond is also central to the album’s success. The rapport that they have established during the many years that they have been playing together forms the backbone of the music and provides a sturdy rhythmic framework for Blake’s solo flights.
Carrothers takes an almost ‘orchestral’ approach to the Rhodes and delivers a fascinating variety of sounds, adding depth and colour to the music as well as impressing as an intelligent and imaginative soloist. The ease with which he adapts to the electric version of his instrument is matched by Redmond at the bass. He and Brady form an exceptional rhythm team, flexible, intelligent and technically adept. The leader steers the music from the kit without being overly dominant, displaying power if needed but also playing with delicacy and precision when required. He impresses with his accuracy, sense of colour and attention to detail throughout.
The critical reaction to “Plan B” appears to have been overwhelmingly positive and rightly so. The quartet’s forthcoming tour of Ireland promises to be a hugely exciting event. Tour dates as listed below;
TOUR DATES: from http://www.kevinbrady.ie
Limerick Jazz Society
The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet - Live in Limerick Presented in association with The Limerick Jazz Society and presented with funding from The Arts Council of Ireland Touring Award.
Westport, Clewbay Hotel
The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet continue their promotional Tour of Ireland performing at The Clewbay Hotel in Westport. Presented in association with Westport Jazz and kindly funded by The Arts Council of Ireland Touring Award.
Sligo, Hawkswell Theatre
The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet has a clear aim of creating and producing new contemporary jazz. Join them at The Hawkswell Theatre to hear one of the most anticipated jazz performances of the year.
Saturday 27th November.
Tickets: €15 & €7.50 under 18’s.
NOV28 Dromara, Magy’s Farm
The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet make their debut performance in Northern Ireland performing at Magy’s Farm on Sunday 28th of November at 8pm
Triskel Arts Centre, Cork
The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet - Tour of Ireland
The Triskel Arts Centre - Cork
Presented with Funding by The Arts Council of Ireland
The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet - Album Launch Party
featuring Seamus Blake, Bill Carrothers & Dave Redmond
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