Home » Jazz Articles » Muirhead Quartet: All or Nothing

237

Album Review

Muirhead Quartet: All or Nothing

By

Sign in to view read count
Muirhead Quartet: All or Nothing
The sprawling double-CD release, All or Nothing, by the Cape Town-based Muirhead Quartet proves to be one of 2010's most forcefully unique, probing, and genre-defying albums. Featuring four stellar artists, the album packs a tremendous aural wallop by offering a veritable master class on just about every major style of jazz that has emerged in the past fifty years. While many recent jazz releases offer little more than star-studded jam sessions, All or Nothing presents a rare treat, with its four talented musicians honing their craft as a unit, exploring the depths of their art, and then delivering their findings.

As can be imagined, the album is extremely difficult to pigeonhole—or even describe succinctly. Some tracks are hard-driving, post-bop tunes that would sound at home on a Kenny Garrett record ("Some Bark"), while others are deeply funky jazz-rock outings ("Gaartjie"),and still others are icy and austere ballads that could make an ECM artist blush ("Dimension Perspective"). Paying tribute to their South African origins, the group also explores its hometown influences on the ghoema-inspired "Lucky" and the gorgeous township-style ballad "Mlungu." It's a truly restless and risky listen throughout the two CDs as the band jumps across stylistic boundaries with aplomb, but it succeeds, thanks to truly strong compositions and its remarkable lineup.

Guitarist Bruce Muirhead and saxophonist Mark Fransman share the melodic work, the two playing off one another quite effectively. While Muirhead alternates between bop-inspired and rock-informed lines (not to mention some effects pedals), his playing is anchored by disciplined and focused technique that yields exciting and fresh improvisation. Fransman's work confirms him as a truly undiscovered gem in the saxophone world; at times delicate and soft, Fransman can also deliver gruff, blues-infused growls as the mood requires. This flexibility is matched by the rhythm section: bassist Shaun Johannes, who is capable of both singing counterpoint and popping funk; and drummer Henirich Goosen, whose propulsive work creatively supports everything from the lightest ballad to the most blues-rock-tinged outing.

Through the double-CD gambit of All or Nothing, the Muirhead Quartet unequivocally establishes what is it capable of, in both composition and improvisation. While it's quite possible that the group's future albums might focus more in terms of style, this gleeful romp through jazz in all its glorious forms is far too much fun to pass up, and is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and fascinating records of 2010.

Track Listing

Some Bark Intro; Some Bark; All Or Nothing; Chilla; You Naturally; Mr & Mischief; Dimension Perspective; Milky Mode; Lucky; Sausage Soup; Gaartjie; Simians; Talking Loud; The Now; Memory Stick; Mlungu; Miss Trillion; Thunder Hat; Transplanter.

Personnel

Bruce Muirhead: guitar; Mark Fransman: saxophones; Shaun Johannes: bass; Heinrich Goosen: drums.

Album information

Title: All or Nothing | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced

Post a comment about this album


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Tags

More

Wave In Gravity
Simona Premazzi
Songs from the Garret
Adam Berenson
When Winter Turns to Spring
Jo Harrop & Paul Edis

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.