Australia boasts an embarrassment of great jazz musicians, an increasing number of whom have made their way to New York
in recent years to broaden their horizons. Guitarist Quentin Angus is one such notable Aussie talent. Here Angus follows up his promising debut, Retrieval Structure
(Self Produced, 2011) with another assured work that highlights his tasteful virtuosity and growing strengths as a composer. Angus effectively fronts two quartets, with drummer Kenneth Salters
the anchor throughout. Stylistically, the music shares a similar contemporary straight-ahead vibe as Angus' debut, though the employment of a string quintet marks a significant progression in songwriting terms.
Angus and alto saxophonist Will Vinson
form an exciting front-line, weaving tight unison lines on "Particular, Peculiar" before the guitarist breaks formation for a solo flight that scores moderately for acrobatics but high marks for artistic grace. Angus is a melodic musician, both with pen and when soloing, and there's more than a hint of the Pat Metheny
Unity Band's influence in his approach to composition.
"Perception" follows a similar pattern to "Particular, Peculiar," though shifts back and forth between soft and more pronounced rhythmic passages. Shai Maestro
's piano paves the way for a somber guitar and saxophone motif, with bassist Linda Oh
another Aussie who's blossomed in New Yorkand Salters lending shadowy support. A dynamic piano riff and Salter's dry and snappy Bill Bruford
-esque touch inject some voltage into the piece, with piano, saxophone bass and guitar unified on the striking melody. Oh executes a grooving solo, which leads the quintet back to the melody and a stirring conclusion.
The sole cover is trumpeter Miles Davis
's "Nardis," a tune Davis never recorded but which was a staple of pianist Bill Evans
's concerts for many years. Pianist Matthew Sheens
-another New York-based Aussie exileand bassist Or Bareket
follow Angus between, dark, rock-oriented syncopation and more lyrical passages. Angus stretches out, sculpting a wonderfully fluid solo that mixes and matches sustained notes and confidently structured, chattering phrases. Vocalist Jo Lawry
's wordless vocal forms the centerpiece of a union with Angus and Vinson on the elegant "Red and Yellow," with attractive, laid back soloing from the latter duo and Maestro.
Sheen's beautiful composition "Chernobyl" stems from piano and Chad Lefkowitz-Brown
's soprano saxophone intro, and features extended, articulate solos from Angus and Lefkowitz-Brown; in between, layers of dual violins, viola, cello and additional bass bob in and out of the narrative to striking affect. The string quintet enjoys greater protagonism on the bright, optimistic "Den Haag," setting the tone before Angus carves out a measured, commanding run. Sheen likewise impresses, supported and coaxed by the effervescent Salters.
Rumbling mallets, alto sax and piano introduce "Restoration," a lithe tune that moves quickly through the gears. Vinson takes the bragging rights in the solos department but it's the thrilling all-hands-on-deck finale, with its punchy motif and spiky tempo that wins the daysurely a barnstorming live number. The equally dynamic "Bounce" features further hugely satisfying solos from Angus and Vinson, over a crisp, driving rhythm. Angus' compositions boast the sophistication and nous of a veteran yet sizzle with youthful vitality. There's not a weak track on the collection, and fine playing all round, not least from Angus himself. Clearly a name to watch out for.
Personnel: Quentin Angus: guitar; Jo Lawry: voice (4); Will vinson: alto saxophone (1, 2, 4, 6, 8); Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: soprano saxophone (5);Shai Maestro: piano (1, 2,4, 6, 8); Matthew Sheens: piano (3, 5, 7); Linda Oh: bass (1, 2, 4, 6, 8); Or Bareket: bass (3, 5, 7); Kenneth Salters: drums; Yanni Burton: bass (5, 7); Sarah Koenig- Plonskier: violin (5, 7); Lavina Pavlish: violin (5, 7); Jack Stulz: viola (5, 7); Leana Rutt: cello (5, 7).