The Norwegian band Quarter Past has returned after a two year hiatus from Smash No Flash
(Jejune Production, 2005) with Boom-Pah
and they have not been standing still.
Simply put, the band has found the right balance between raw energy with dense waves of sound from Dag Stiberg's distinctive buzz-saw alto saxophone sound, straight driving groove material and softer, more melodic pieces. Helge Jorgensen is the band's main composer and the material is well constructed. By combining simple materials and developing them, each tune has an organic feel that allows it to grow. The band sounds much more unified, with the whole now being more than the sum of its parts.
Quarter Past's music has taken on a subtler, altogether more sophisticated feel which still has much energy, but which breaths as the recognizable thematic phrases are developed, while maintaining a thread of recognition. Surprising the listener is now part of their game plan, as the band just stops in its tracks during a high energy, driving section and brings the volume way down.
Stiberg and Jorgensen play the same roles in this recording as they did on the previous one. The saxophonist is still a bundle of energy with a sound that consists of a constant, strong burr added to his main note, which also sounds as if is almost going to split. Even when he plays softly and sweetly the sound still has a bit of an edge. He is opposed by a pianist who uses a lot of space and understatement to create a crisp coolness that comes mainly from a deep sense of rhythm and sharp harmonies. This fire and ice, good cop-bad cop mixture maintains a swirling balance, allowing the listener to savor the differing sounds while also experiencing contrasts.
While Jorgensen and Stiberg get the most attention, the band would not be the same without the very tight rhythm section of Carl Gjerdrum on bass and Kyrre Lindvig on drums. They can match power with power push the other two as much as they follow their lead.
It is no surprise that Quarter Past is a very popular club band. They can groove, play a sweet ballad, and provide the highest energy free, yet structured, jazz anyone could want, all the while sharing with the audience the fun they are having. While this was true before, the band has now added a well-tuned sense of both compositional and improvisational continuity, which also engages the mind.
One listen to the twenty-minute Jorgensen composition "Apotheosis" will turn your head, make you tap your feet and then flatten you against your chair. Quite a feat!