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James Kitchman: First Quartet

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James Kitchman: First Quartet
In the pen portrait of London-based guitarist James Kitchman which is included on the website of his record label, Ubuntu Music, Kitchman singles out the five jazz musicians who have most inspired his playing. Four of them are saxophonists John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins and guitarists John Scofield and Bill Frisell—titans all, frequently cited as influences by emerging young musicians. Kitchman's fifth hero is less often championed these days. It is guitarist Jim Hall.

Hall's lyricism and sophisticated grasp of harmony—characteristics he shared with pianist Bill Evans, with whom he recorded two magical albums in the early 1960s—are echoed in Kitchman's playing. But so too are resonances from multiple diverse sources, including a judiciously applied sonic futurism which brings to mind Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset. So this review spotlights Hall's name not because Hall is Kitchman's most overt influence, but to serve notice of Kitchman's singularity. First Quartet is not—as might be anticipated today from a guitar-led London band—an exercise in dancefloor-friendly groove. Instead, it is an elegant and unfashionably erudite album, carefully arranged but allowing plenty of space for improvisation, which without being in any way "difficult," repays the cerebral attention of the listener.

The quartet assembled by Kitchman is completed by three fellow-travelling musicians. Pianist Bruno Heinen, with whom Kitchman has recorded in another setting, is a professor of piano and composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music, has eight albums to his name and has worked with the great saxophonists Denys Baptiste and Shabaka Hutchings among other pivotal figures on the London scene. Bassist Tom McCredie's credits include two albums with guitarist Rob Luft and another two with pianist Elliot Galvin, both rising stars. Drummer Shaney Forbes was in 2007 a founder member of in-a-class-of-its-own Empirical, with whom he continues to play.

Other influences cited by Kitchman in his aforementioned pen portrait, and audible on First Quartet, include the melancholic romanticism of Astor Piazzolla and the less-is-more melodic touch of Erik Satie. There is also an audio clip of John Lennon talking about "power to the people" (which in an age of halfwit populism raises challenging questions about which people). All these eclectic ingredients come together in an engaging synthesis.

Postscript: In case you missed it, Germany's recently revived MPS label has in early 2022 reissued Jim Hall's minor masterpiece In Berlin: It's Nice To Be With You, recorded in 1969 with bassist Jimmy Woode and drummer Daniel Humair.

Track Listing

Making The World Disappear; World Uncharted; Once For R.A.; Bees; Why Did He Show Her His Face; I Control The Weather; The Melt; Recluse; Connoisseur Of Clouds; First Day.

Personnel

James Kitchman: guitar, electric; Bruno Heinen: piano; Tom McCredie: bass, acoustic; Shaney Forbes: drums.

Album information

Title: First Quartet | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Ubuntu Music

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