Confidence to revisit the tradition dovetailed with a stance that heralds the future of the music. The quartet, comprising musicians known for challenging set parameters, brought this energy and attitude to a respectful and intrepid performance.
Sketches of the neo-bop classic, “Confirmation”, raised the curtain. Fragile statements echoing the main theme were suffused by pianist, Kit Downes’ elegant chordal flourishes. Drummer, Seb Rochford’s brittle rhythmic fills and percussive textures complimented this effect with double bassist, Neil Charles’ melodic forms drawing attention towards the points of greatest harmonic tension. With lightly decorated melodic phrases tenor saxophonist, Shabaka Hutchings propelled the quartet to groove on a spirited bop swing. The sound segued into an abstract feel ushering in a subtle rallentando which provided the context for ruminations on the central theme by Hutchings, now on alto clarinet. He loosely pulled the theme in beguiling rhythmic and melodic directions as the rhythm section brewed a gentle hymn-like mid-low tempo swing.
Original compositions provided equally fertile material for the group to develop their acoustic portrait. Downes introduced a tune of “no name” with beautiful harmonic layers which spilled onto the sonic landscape with grace and subtlety. Atmospheric cymbal effects evoked a nebulous environment for Hutchings, on clarinet, to reside in and pursue pensive melodic lines while Charles’ bubbling bass phrases made perceptive harmonic illuminations. Rochford stripped the music down to its raw original conception with sparse, uneasy percussive textures and melodic empathy. Hutchings’ repetitive melodic patterns scaled the harmonic dimensions of the composition building tension in its wake. It provided a melodic pillar off which disjointed harmonic and rhythmic contributions from the rhythm section coherently took the group into avant-garde territory. Charles’ a cappella bass solo sensitively channelled the melodic energy into tones of harmonic intrigue.
The trepidation felt by contemporary musicians towards public performances of traditional compositions was cast off and almost ridiculed by this quartet. They proved their musical integrity and the possibility of continual progression within familiar frames of reference.