Dagda Quartet: Dagda (2012)

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Dagda Quartet: Dagda
How to get a debut album noticed? It's not easy—big marketing campaigns, celebrity endorsement or major national television exposure are hard to achieve if, like most contemporary artists, the budget is somewhere between limited and non-existent. There's one key attribute that helps enormously though: great music. Welcome to an album full of great music: Dagda, the eponymous first release from this young UK-based quartet.

Alto saxophonist and writer-in-chief Tom Harrison
Tom Harrison

sax, alto
—studying at Trinity College of Music when this recording was made and a 2011 London Jazz Award nominee—leads the quartet, with bassist Tom West and drummer Mike Clowes in the rhythm section. Guitarist Billy Adamson moves confidently between lead and rhythm playing, as well as composing the free-flowing and melodic "Song In C." The four musicians seem to have an almost intuitive understanding of each others' playing; the resulting ensemble sound is strong and tight—surprisingly so, given the band's relatively short life.

Harrison has a fairly hard tone and economical style, avoiding unnecessary flurries of notes and preferring, instead, to deliver melodic phrases—often in unison with Adamson—that convey the emotion of the tune rather than simply demonstrate his technique. His lyrical performance on Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
's "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing," initially accompanied solely by West's straight-ahead bass pattern, is beautifully judged. West provides a consistently solid focus for the band, enabling Clowes to take a freer and more assertive approach to his percussion.

More than half the album is devoted to the five-part "Suite For RLH," which Harrison wrote in remembrance of his grandfather. It's a graceful work, moving from its opening reflective and gentle passages, to the more melancholy mood of "Suite For RLH III" to the up-tempo groove of "IV," which resolves to West's sparse, considered bass solo. Tenor saxophonist Michael Buckley (who also produced the album at his Dublin studio) gives greater depth to the melody line of "NTLD" and adds punch to "Suite For RLH IV."

Debut albums like Dagda make the heart feel glad and help to calm any fear that the new generation of players might lack their own distinctive voices. Dagda the album is a strong calling card for Dagda the band: the arrival of an exciting new quartet is hereby announced. Now, where's that celebrity endorsement?

Track Listing: Suite For RLH, I; Suite For RLH, II; Suite For RLH, III; “; Suite For RLH, V; Song In C; NLTD; A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing.

Personnel: Tom Harrison: alto saxophone; Billy Adamson: guitar; Tom West: double bass; Mike Clowes: drums; Michael Buckley: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone (2, 4, 7).

Record Label: Lyte Records


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