England’s Wild Strings Quartet has produced a wonderful eponymous album that's perfect for Sunday mornings. The music is jazz-based, but a strong classical approach and some occasional ambient leanings shape its character. The acoustic Quartet offers several John McLaughlin pieces, a stunning tribute to Paco DeLucia and a few original compositions.
The McLaughlin pieces, such as the opener, “Trilogy,” mostly come from his Mahavishnu period and are treated with love and respect. In fact, if you were not aware of their lineage, you may think these tunes were forms of modern Baroque. It is doubtful that any improvisation took place when the tunes were treated in this manner. They are very impressive nonetheless. Especially pleasing on these numbers is the bass of Ron Savage, that seems to be the buoy that lifts the music.
The tribute to Paco DeLucia, “A Paco,” is the most inspired piece on the album. The guitars of Anderson, Philip Gibbs and Ale Fernandez are very strong throughout this tune as it builds to a fiery climax. The spirit of Flamenco as well as Paco’s particular approach to it are captured succinctly.
The album has its flaws. While the band’s original tunes are clearly inspired, they do suffer from an overuse of ambient atmospherics that make those sections of the music somewhat arid. While they still have worthwhile moments, a paring down of these tunes would have produced better results.
The album comes to a close with an exciting interpretation of McLaughlin’s “Lila’s Dance”. The band stretches out its improvisations in the funk rave-up section of the piece. A strong voice throughout much of the album, Peter Evans’ violin almost steals the final tune.
The album is dedicated to John McLaughlin and Paco DeLucia. Their influence is dripping out of the pores of this music. The Wild Strings Quartet may not be quite as wild as its name suggests, but its approach to music is reverentially refreshing .
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