This is not an unbiased review. That needs to be said from the outset. Payola changed hands to ensure that this review was written. The press release for Mintedthe fourth album from Scotland's Brass Jawarrived accompanied by cash. An obvious bribe. Painted to resemble an eye, but still quite obviously coin of the realm. Two pence, sterling.
Such a fundamentally ineffectual attempt at bribery seems to be in keeping with the quartet's light-hearted outlook on life. This is not a band to take things too seriously. But it is a serious band: four highly-talented players with a real command of their instruments. Armed with one trumpet and three saxophones Brass Jaw is capable of powerful, hardcore, rhythms, rocking grooves, memorable melody lines and harmonic interplay.
Live, Brass Jaw is a visually as well as musically exciting proposition: a mobile unit that's able and happy to leave the stage and weave its way around the audience. On record, the music has to stand up for itself. It does: the band skilfully combines its instruments and also makes a nicely-judged selection of tunes, with a variety of moods, tempos and textures. Allon Beauvoisin takes charge of the bottom end, his firm-toned rhythms anchoring the tunes yet still swinging. Ryan Quigley's bright and crystal clear trumpet sits on top while the mellower alto and tenor of Paul Towndrow and Konrad Wiszniewski occupy the sonic middle ground.
Two well-known classicsfunky arrangements of Ben Tucker's "Comin' Home Baby" and Bobby Hebb's "Sunny"slip in between a dozen or so Brass Jaw originals. Wiszniewski contributes just one tune, the dramatic "Little Allegory." Beauvoisin's "Last October" is distinguished by Towndrow's sprightly alto. Lovers of the double entendre will find much to enjoy in another of his contributions, "Pulling A Quigley," even before a note is played. When the music does start, Quigley takes charge with a commanding solo and some piercingly impressive higher register blowing.
Towndrow's blues tunes form an intriguing coupling. "Lester Gibson Blues" is the upbeat tune of the two, featuring excellent ensemble playing and solos. "Charles Franklin Blues" features Michael Owers, the album's engineer, on trombone. Charles Mingus grooves ("Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Better Git it In Your Soul") feature strongly on this mournful but lovely tune.
So when all is said and done this is another hugely enjoyable slice of jazz from Scotland's finest trumpet and saxophones quartet. Fun, frivolous, thoughtful, creative. The two pence bribe was an unnecessary extravagance, chaps.
Heads Down, Thumbs Up; Always The Last Word; For Those Of Us; Imaginary Friend; Walk Tall; Comin' Home Baby; Talisman Home; Propeller Beanie; I Can Hear Your Smile; Lester Gibson Blues; Little Allegory; Last October; Pulling A Quigley; Sunny; Charles Franklin Blues.
Ryan Quigley: trumpet; Paul Towndrow: alto saxophone; Konrad Wiszniewski: tenor saxophone; Allon Beauvoisin: baritone saxophone; Michael Owers: trombone (15).
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.