A gorgeously lyrical tenor saxophonist, Adam Bishop has emerged from the sideman shadows with the most assured and compelling British jazz album to be released so far this year. He's in the company of three other young London tyros: vibraphonist Jim Hart, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer Shaney Forbes. On Sanctuary the quartet play supple, melodically vibrant jazz with a spiky modern edge. It's a hugely enjoyable mix, and one with considerable depth.
Starting out as a straight-ahead bop player, Bishopborn in England in 1974, brought up in Australia, and resident in London since 1998cites saxophonists Steve Coleman, Albert Ayler and Wayne Shorter as later influences, along with composer Olivier Messiaen. I don't hear much Ayler influence on Sanctuary myself, but there are certainly echoes of Coleman and Shorter. Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, in his Canto (ECM, 1997) and onwards work, sings out from time to time toosometimes in the harmonic twists and turns of Bishop's tunes (all but two tracks are originals); always, and more tellingly, in the healing, restorative quality of his music.
The album is dedicated, rather movingly, to Bishop's friend, Drew Sydes ("who lives in every note I play"), and several of the tracks reference sickness and loss. Three consecutive tunes in particular"For Drew," the Zen-like title track, and Billy Strayhorn's more agitated "U.M.M.G." (for Upper Manhattan Medical Group)are presumably part of this dedication. If it sounds depressing, it's not. Bishop creates lovely, uplifting music throughout, and the listener is revived and replenished by hearing it.
Bishop has chosen his colleagues well. Hart's rich, resonator-on-eleven tone fits hand in glove with the saxophonist's velvet muscularity and recalls Milt Jackson in his early Modern Jazz Quartet days, with an admixture of the angular and the acerbic. Bartley, an engaged and listening bassist if ever you heard onea bandleader in his own right, he's also an important member of saxophonists Ingrid Laubrock's and Denys Baptiste's bandsprovides his characteristically propulsive but un-flashy energy. Forbes, a star graduate of Gary Crosby's Tomorrow's Warriors, is a rock solid anchor and inventive soloist. There is little collective improvisingall of the seven or eight minute tracks are essentially theme/solos/theme constructionsbut a high degree of group interplay is sustained throughout.
Emotionally articulate and thoughtful music which repays repeated listenings, Sanctuary announces the arrival of another talented voice on London's saxophone scene.
Crank Call; For Drew; Sanctuary; UMMG; True And False; Windmills; Satellite.
Adam Bishop: soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet; Jim Hart: vibraphone; Larry Bartley: bass; Shaney Forbes: drums.
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