, one of the UK's leading jazz trombonists, mans the front line by himself on the slyly named GMQ,
an eloquent quartet session from which Mason's longtime colleague, the outstanding saxophonist Simon Spillett
, is regrettably missing. As nothing can be done to set that right, best to focus on the music at hand, which binds works by jazz masters John Coltrane
, Herbie Hancock
and Thelonious Monk
to a pair of lesser-known originals ("Beyond All Limits," "L's Bop").
In Spillett's absence, Mason has assembled a superlative rhythm sectionpianist John Horler
, bassist Adam King
, drummer Winston Clifford
who furnish a broad and unwavering comfort zone to undergird Mason's astute improvisations. And when Mason chooses to step aside, each one forges well-designed ad libs of his own. In fact, Horler takes the album's introductory solo, on Coltrane's seldom-played "26-2," a light-hearted romp wherein Mason also excels. "Tell Me a Bedtime Story," the first of Hancock's two themes (the other is the escalating "Riot"), is next up, easing the pace for amiable solos by Mason and Horler.
Monk's typically eccentric "Trinkle Tinkle," another in the too-seldom-heard sphere (pun intended), gives King a chance to flex his intuitive chops, after which Mason and Horler offer further pertinent commentary and trade four-bar volleys with Clifford. "Beyond All Limits," a sunny flag-waver on which Horler unveils his bright and playful nature, and King and Clifford shine again, leads to the second of Monk's compositions, the more familiar but no less fanciful "Well You Needn't," and to the album's fast-moving finale, "L's Bop" (credited only to White
), beyond any doubt one of the session's highlights. Everyone is in fine form there, with sweet solos by Mason and Horler adding icing to the cake.
While there's no questioning Mason's technical expertise or ability to improvise, there's nothing here that sets him apart from a host of others, in the States and abroad, as that is the nature of the trombone. It's not often that a J.J. Johnson
, Frank Rosolino
or Jack Teagarden
comes along to alter the scope and tenor of the instrument. Peerlessness aside, Mason plays quite well, his partners are perfectly compatible, and GMQ
is sharp and pleasing on its own terms.
1. 26-2 (Coltrane)
2. Tell me a Bedtime Story ( Hancock)
3. Trinkle Tinkle ( Monk)
4. Beyond All Limits (Shaw)
5. Well You Needn't (Monk)
6. Riot (Hancock)
7. L's Bop (White)