New Zealand keyboard player Alan Brown -- who has previously been in Blue Train and is currently in the Grand Central Band -- is on record saying that rather than writing a jazz album he wanted all his influences, classical to electronica and rock, to find their voice with his quartet for this release.
And with saxophonist Nathan Haines guesting and string players alongside guitarist Andy Smith, bassist Marika Hodgson and drummer Jono Sawyer, he can quite comfortable tick the "mission accomplished" box -- although this is still squarely in the jazz idiom.
The discrete pieces here are sometimes cool like the soundtrack to an intellectual film (State of Mind with Haines on soprano), nightclub funky in the manner of Blue Train in the Nineties (The Dancer and Chess, Sustainable Resources) or distinctly edgy (Broken Dreams) and there is also an elegant sophistication underpinning them even when -- as on the more urgent Do Not Track and Seventies-styled jazz-rock of Phonology -- the tempo kicks up and, guitarist Smith in particular, they offer influences from the rock end of the spectrum.
One of the most interesting pieces among the many which command attention is Hashra'ah which, with its thoughtful piano introduction suggesting contemporary classical influences before easing through a central section which takes off on hypnotic tangents, wouldn't sound out of place on any classy European jazz release.
From the opener Sounding Out (a title which rather undersells itself) to the string trio-coloured Epilogue (which is preceded by the exploratory, eight minute-plus Tableau), this is a world class, sometimes elegant and always diverting collection of originals where the hallmarks are quality playing and a singular commitment of purpose by Brown and his younger colleagues.
Very smart stuff. Recommended.
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By Graham Reid, posted