Indigo Kid: Indigo Kid
Indigo Kid is the debut, one heckuva debut, by the British guitarist Dan Messore, fronting one heckuva quartet. Indigo Kid comprises two parts new talent and two parts young veterans. New talent is represented by Messore and drummer Gethlin Jones, experience by tenor saxophonist Iain Ballamy and bassist Tim Harries.
On this showing, Messore sounds like a contender-in-waiting for Pat Metheny's mantle. His sound is bright and warm, his playing lyrical and flowing, he knows how to use space, and he has technique to spare. He comes on remarkably like Metheny on his straight-ahead trio outings Day Trip (2008), Tokyo Day Trip (2008) and Question and Answer (1989) (all Nonesuch). Like Metheny's music, Messore's is a celebration of light and beauty, rather than an exploration of darker forces.
Not that Messore is a die-stamped Metheny clone. There are echoes of folk-rock guitarists such as John Fahey, Jon Renbourn and Bert Jansch in his harmonization. And neither is Indigo Kid indistinguishable from Metheny's trio and quartet outings; the input of Iain Ballamywho produced and arranged in addition to playingensures a different character. The saxophonist, who emerged as part of the adventurous British big band Loose Tubes in the mid-1980s, and is best known today for his work with the Anglo-Norwegian jazz-electronica group Food, shares the spotlight with Messore on most tracks. Ballamy's far-ranging style sits well with the folk-rock resonances in Messore's music.
The other young veteran in the quartet, Tim Harries, played alongside Ballamy in drummer Bill Bruford's Earthworks from 1989 to 1993both are featured on the Earthworks albums Dig? (1989), All Heaven Broke Loose (1991) and Stamping Ground (1994), all on the EG labelwhile also (and here comes another folk-rock strand) being a member of Steeleye Span, which he left in 2001. Since then, Harries' credits include ex-Loose Tube drummer Martin France's Spin Marvel (2006) and The Reluctantly Politicised Mr James (2010), both on Edition Records, and "magickal" storyteller and graphic artist Alan Moore's audio disc Angel Passage (Megaphon, 2008).
The fourth member of the group, Gethlin Jones, studied with Messore at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. He has worked with another talented young British guitarist, Cameron Pierre, and with trumpeter Steve Waterman, a member of Messore's other band, Lacuna Quintet, which will debut in June 2012 with the album Talk on the Step, also on Babel.
All but one of the tunes here are Messore originals. Like his playing, they reveal Metheny's influence, and echoes, too, of Bill Frisell. Most of his writing, Messore says, comes as a response to nature and landscape. The younger guitarist's melodies do not evoke the wide-open spaces of Frisell's Americana, but they do frequently suggest natural environments (and, on "Mr Lepard," the misty-mountain vibe of Led Zeppelin in its quieter moments). There are twists: "Ode to Gilly" has some of the spikey, metropolitan air of Thelonious Monk's work, and "New Man New Place" is bossa nova-based. The only non-original, George Gershwin's "The Man I Love," is given a gorgeous reading.
Messore is young, this is his first album, and he has yet fully to put his own stamp on the influences in his playing, but Indigo Kid is the business. Highly auspicious.
Tracks: First Light; Waitent Wantant; Mr Lepard; New Man New Place; Indigo Kid; Pages to a Friend; One to Gilly; The Man I Love; Bioluminescence.
Personnel: Dan Messore: guitar; Iain Ballamy: tenor saxophone; Tim Harries: bass; Gethin Jones: drums.