194

Aquarium: Aquarium

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Aquarium: Aquarium Aquarium's self-titled debut is strong on melody and displays a welcome combination of ability and enthusiasm from each of the London-based quartet's members. Led by pianist Sam Leak, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, who formed Aquarium in 2008, he's an inventive composer, crafting tunes that enable the quartet to stretch out while retaining a strong central theme—an approach that puts Aquarium in that sector of the jazz scene occupied by similarly creative young bands like the Kit Downes Sextet (which includes Aquarium saxophonist James Allsopp and bassist Calum Gourlay) and the Kairos 4tet.

Leak and Allsopp—who is featured strongly on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet—are a formidable duo. Allsopp is initially the more noticeable player, particularly on bass clarinet, while Leak is the more nuanced and less demonstrative of the two; it's a balanced and winning combination. There's some terrific interplay, too, between Gourlay and drummer Joshua Blackmore.

"The Treasure Chest" has touches of John Coltrane's spirituality about it, thanks in particular to Allsopp's tenor saxophone. "Sleek" is more playful, centered on a funky groove from Blackmore's drums, and featuring some honking saxophone from Allsopp. "Shy" is a sedate, calm, and rather melancholy tune. "Shades of Grey" also exudes calmness, albeit of a more romantic hue. Leak and Blackmore are at their most delicate here and Gourlay's bass solo is warm and sensual. There are times on "Evensong" and "The Treasure Chest" when the band seems to lose direction and sounds a little hesitant. But those moments, though starkly apparent, are brief.

"Shades of Grey (featuring Rhiannon Bradbury)" is not simply a reprise of "Shades of Grey" with added vocals. It is instead a reinterpretation of the tune, performed as a duet between Leak's piano and Bradbury's voice. Leak plays sparingly, emphasizing the lower register of the instrument, as Bradbury sings her own lyrics. She sings beautifully, with occasional vocal inflections that are reminiscent of Kate Bush. In her lower register Bradbury sounds controlled and mature. In her upper register she's a little edgier, with a childlike quality. The result is instantly appealing.

Aquarium is yet another indication of the strength of talent to be found among the younger generation of British jazz musicians. These four players already show a musical maturity beyond their years on this impressive debut. The potential that they also display is possibly even more exciting.

Track Listing: Strangers; Grasshopper; Evensong; Shades of Grey; Pisa Rain; The Treasure Chest; Shy; Sleek; Shades of Grey (featuring Rhiannon Bradbury).

Personnel: Sam Leak: piano; James Allsopp: bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Calum Gourlay: bass; Josh Blackmore: drums; Rhiannon Bradbury: vocals (9).

Title: Aquarium | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Babel Label


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read I Know Who I Am CD/LP/Track Review I Know Who I Am
by James Nadal
Published: July 26, 2017
Read With You In Mind CD/LP/Track Review With You In Mind
by Doug Collette
Published: July 26, 2017
Read Departure CD/LP/Track Review Departure
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 26, 2017
Read Roll On CD/LP/Track Review Roll On
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 25, 2017
Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 25, 2017
Read "Everyone Is Everyone Else" CD/LP/Track Review Everyone Is Everyone Else
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 13, 2016
Read "This is Life" CD/LP/Track Review This is Life
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 29, 2016
Read "El Toro" CD/LP/Track Review El Toro
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Big Wheel Live" CD/LP/Track Review Big Wheel Live
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 17, 2016
Read "Glitter" CD/LP/Track Review Glitter
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 12, 2017
Read "Sanjay Divecha and Secret" CD/LP/Track Review Sanjay Divecha and Secret
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 2, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.