Fast forward four years, and the release of this second disc credited to the Dominic Lash Quartet brings a surpriseAlexander Hawkins is gone, to be replaced by clarinetist and guitarist Alex Ward. Like other quartet members, Ward has a substantial history of playing with Lash, dating back at least to 2006, in the group Barkingside... curiously, in which they were also joined by Hawkins! (See YouTube below for evidence.)
For those who admired Opabinia, the good news is that Extremophile displays the same qualities that contributed to its predecessor's success. The four players are well attuned to each other so that their music flows easily throughout. There is enough variety across the album's seven tracks to ensure that the music never becomes predictable or formulaic, yet it does not sound as if novelty has been gratuitously included.
An indication of that variety is the inclusion of Lash arrangements of both "Fumeux Fume" by the fourteenth century French poet-composer Solage, and a fourteen-minute version of "Mixed, Mixed" by Cecil Taylor, alongside a brief group improvisation and four Lash originals. The players' interpretations of this material match its variety, with every piece being a springboard for exploration and innovative soloing. With Tejero doubling on alto saxophone and clarinet, and Ward on clarinet and guitar, there is much scope to vary the soundscape; when both feature clarinet together, they intertwine beautifully. In total contrast, Ward's guitar is particularly showcased on the Taylor piece and, when he lets rip, he really soars, making thrilling listening.
Altogether, this album makes one hope this quartet's next one arrives soon. Meanwhile, there is plenty here to savour time and time again.