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New York City based “Flipside” is a multinational quartet featuring New Zealanders Matt Penman (bass), Greg Tuohey (guitar), Irish drummer Darren Beckett and French saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh. “Flipside” is about strong grooves, sensitive group interplay and adequate breathing room for the soloists as in Matt Penman’s composition, “The Magic Beans”. Here, Jerome Sabbagh leads the charge with his fluent, breezy Soprano Sax phrasing and serves as the traffic cop through meticulously developed thematic statements. Greg Tuohey’s warm, animated guitar choruses underscore Jerome Sabbagh’s smooth, eloquent tenor sax work on Sabbagh’s “Numero 6”.
Positive vibes abound as Flipside convey a modern demeanor yet maintain and artfully display traditional jazz concepts as in Greg Tuohey’s “Stretch”. On this piece, the boys jazz it up some, featuring the polyrhytmic drumming of Darren Beckett alongside Matt Penman’s rapidly walking bass line. Greg Tuohey’s “Nude” is a somber ballad as Tuohey performs passionately with nicely developed chord voicings and precise, clear-toned single note runs. “Nude” features sonorous yet understated bass lines from Penman who negotiates the common ground, which boasts striking melodies and brilliant tonal colors. Penman’s “High Times” is up-tempo and supported by Beckett’s firm backbeat and intermittent doses of power drumming counterbalancing Sabbagh’s lyrical and spirited tenor sax choruses.
Part of Flipside’s magic lies within compositions constructed around memorable hooks and themes, which effectively counter the imaginative soloing and prevailing sense of space. A surprisingly mature debut effort featuring solid, fertile material and superb craftsmanship.
Matt Penman; Bass: Greg Tuohey; Guitar: Jerome Sabbagh; Tenor & Soprano Saxophone: Darren Beckett; Drums. 1998 Naxos Jazz (web: www.hnh.com)