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Yuri Honing Acoustic Quartet: Desire

Ian Patterson By

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It's been three years since the Yuri Honing Quartet's True (Challenge Records, 2012), a sumptuous all-acoustic affair that was in stark contrast to the powerful, duel electric guitar-driven Wired Paradise. That particular group hasn't recorded since White Tiger (Jazz in Motion Records, 2010), though the retrospective compilation North Sea Jazz Legendary Concerts (Bob City, 2013) captured it and Honing in other settings at the famous Dutch festival between 1996-2012. In between Wired Paradise and his quartet releases Honing collaborated with musicologist/recorder player Erik Bosgraaf on Hotel Terminus (Brilliant Classics, 2013)—a fascinating blend of baroque, jazz-rock and ambient textures. Here Honing once again immerses himself in a dreamy acoustic reverie of smoldering passions -expressions of different feelings of desire.

The one change in line-up since True sees Icelander Gulli Gudmundsson replace Ruben Samama on double bass duties, but otherwise the music picks up where True left off. The spare architecture of Honing's music foregrounds melody over rhythm, with emotional impact outweighing individualism. Joost Lijbaart's fluttering brushes tattoo sets the tone on the title track, a faintly baroque-influenced ballad, where pianist Wolfert Brederode's minimalism accompanies Honing's softly yearning tenor lines. On an original rewiring of alt-rock band Blonde Redhead's "Messeneger" Honing glides mellifluously over pulsing bass and insistent brushes, but even at a greater rhythmic clip and with some intensity Honing's economy of notes guides the quartet's less-is-more approach.

Gudmundsson's bowed bass fuses as one with Honing's lulling tenor on "Renaissance," a plaintive, practically arrhythmic tune where the rotation of instruments effects textural shifts rather than a chain of solos. More paired back still is "Lasciate me Morire" [Let Me Die], inspired by Claudio Monteverdi's 16th century madrigal, and a reminder that death too is a not uncommon desire. Lijbaart and Gudmundsson sit out as saxophone and piano combine in melancholy meditation; Honing's drawn out notes paint a yeaning monologue but throughout Desire there's very little approaching a solo, just brief passing on of the melodic battons, like a slow-motion carousel.

Honing has always the knack of penning simple, haunting melodies and "Mina Daiski" is a case in point; from ruminative beginnings the quartet sound gradually swells, with the leader's tenor buoyed by more sharply defined rhythmic support. Likewise, the lyrical caress of "Papillion" seduces, with Lijbaart's deft use of shells, bells and cymbals providing subtly striking punctuation. Honing is faithful to the spirit of Carla Bley's "Sad Song" while leaving his own indelible stamp on a two-gear rendition that shifts from melancholy introspection to sultry groove at the flick of a switch. Undulating, mantra-like piano motifs form the canvas of Brederode's composition "Route du Paradis"; lyrical bass and Lijbaart's light percussive step add shading around Honing's brief, emotive exclamation.

Desire is an affair of the heart in more ways than one. The CD's inside cover contains a poem entitled "Our Heart" by Joost Zwagerman, inspired by that most vital organ. Zwagerman's rich trawl of adjectives includes intimate, bittersweet, vulnerable and intense—descriptions that equally sum up Honning's haunting, heartfelt music; music as delicate and as vital as the "fragile fist thumping and pumping" inside each of us.

Track Listing: Desire; Messenger; Renaissance; Mina Daiski; Lasciate Mi Morire; Papillon; Sad Song; Route du Paradis.

Personnel: Yuri Honing: tenor saxophone; Wolfert Brederode: piano; Gulli Gudmundsson: double bass; Joost Lijbaart: drums, percussion.

Title: Desire | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Challenge Records

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