An enticing record from four under-recognized jazz veterans, Jeff "Siege" Siegel's London Live
features drummer Siegel and his long-standing partners pianist Francesca Tanksley
and tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay
, plus new addition bassist Uli Langthaler
, for eight expansive, well-played tracks that combine healthy respect for the jazz tradition with a hint of an adventurous edge.
The members of the quartet possess decades of experience in the jazz world. Siegel was a member of Roland Hanna
's group in the late 1990s, but he's also worked with Dave Douglas
, Ravi Coltrane
and Arthur Rhames, among many others. Lindsay has a similar breadth, with projects ranging from dates with Melba Liston
and Dizzy Gillespie
to avant-gardists like Oliver Lake
and Reggie Workman
. Not to be outdone, Tanksley has spanned the gamut of jazz styles, with steady work in Billy Harper
's quintet in addition to appearances with Slide Hampton
and Clifford Jordan
. And although he's not a regular member of Siegel's quartet, Vienna-based Langthaler boasts a resume that includes everyone from Joe Zawinul
to Wolfgang Muthspiel
to Dee Dee Bridgewater
. So even if you haven't heard of
these musicians before, the odds are good that you have in fact heard them. And here they get to do their thing, live, in the intimate confines of London's Pizza Express Jazz Club, in closing out a two-week European tour back in 2010.
Siegel mentions in the liner notes that a citywide metro strike had just begun prior to their performance, so the club wasn't packed; but the appreciative fans who did attend are definitely enthused, and one can hear the excitement in the room build as the evening moves along. From the opening piece, Lindsay's "Meet Me at the Station," one can hear the group's pronounced debt to the classic John Coltrane
Quartet, with Lindsay's keening saxophone evoking the spiritual seeker himself, and Tanksley's thunderous left hand and nimble right-hand flurries bearing that unmistakable McCoy Tyner
influence. Even the repertoire points to this influence, with a potent rendition of Coltrane's "Peace on Earth" one of the disc's highlights, and Siegel's surging "Crescent Sound" an explicit homage to Elvin Jones
But these players have too much of their own to say to be pigeonholed as Coltrane-quartet imitators. Indeed, "Meet Me at the Station" generates a lot of its energy from the push-pull rhythmic tension that Siegel creates, as the track moves back and forth between steady groove and rubato modes. One hears just as much Tony Williams
as Elvin Jones in Siegel's fluid, shape-shifting delivery. And on "Crescent Sound," the musicians' avant-garde credentials are on display, with a roaming, impressively tuneful Siegel solo catalyzing some inspired playing from Lindsay that pushes well beyond any facile Coltrane comparisons, as she enters into a feisty dialogue with the drummer that produces some of the record's most untethered music, especially once Langthaler and Tanksley join in to elevate the music's passion and rhythmic intensity even further.
Although it took a while to put it on record, a successful GoFundMe campaign has finally given Siegel the chance to bring this evening of music to lightand it's a testament to what a working band can do in honing its sound through years of collaboration and mutual support.