Julian Siegel has been involved in many of the best new albums coming out of the UK Jazz scene - like Out 'n' In and Alien Left Hand - so it's nice to see an album where he is leader and writes or arranges all the music.
This album is full of imagination and a lot more tonal colour than you would expect from a Jazz quartet. So this is down to Julian's use of several reed instruments and in particular the fantastic tone he gets from bass clarinet, like on "Interlude" with it's funky grooves. Also, Liam Noble introduces electric piano and effects.
Just to be perverse, I am starting with the last track "Drone Job" - where the e-piano sounds are truly wild and wonderful - it's a funky goove-based tune which is brought to life by the inspired soloing and tone colours, as well as Gene Calderazzo's massive drum presence.
Working back from there - we have just the opposite, as Julian arranges Cedar Walton's 'Fantasy in D" for a tune that is much more what you would expect from a classic post-Bop Jazz group.
The first 5 tunes are all Siegel originals and all have great tunes, playing and interesting grooves - often in odd-time signatures with tricky syncopations.
I really liked the sharp piano stabs of "Keys to the City" which has Julian on great form, but the heart of the album is a 3-part suite "Game of Cards" which again has a fantastic bass line to start with and which develops into all sorts of musical genres.
So this is clearly a Jazz album - but if you put the CD on at certain points you might think it was a chamber music album from the contemporary classical field - at others you might think it was experimental electronica?
There is so much going on in here - it definitely needs more than one listen to appreciate - but it's also changing quite frequently, so it's not a case of endless intense solos - there are all sorts of group ideas being thrown at you.
The 3-part suite mentioned previously, clocks in at over 12 minutes long - but it never stays too long on one thing and is constantly entertaining - with all the instrumentalists contributing ideas - grooves and melodies. So you never get time to be bored and instead wonder where it's all going next!
This is certainly among the best of contemporary British Jazz - highly recommended!
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