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Paul Baxter Quartet

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Reviews of Paul Baxter Quartet

 

02/02/2013 Bruce Lindsay

The understated monochrome cover of the Paul Baxter Quartet's debut album Monuments is both honest and misleading. Honest, because the UK-based quartet is understated: no gimmicks, nothing flash, no attempt to craft any sort of archly irrelevant image. Misleading, because its rather dull exterior fails to hint at the delights to be found inside, for this is an album filled with musical delights as well as a few scary moments.
The characteristic bite and energy of the Quartet's music is obvious from the off as "Blams" hits its funky groove with confidence. Each of the band members impresses—bassist Baxter, with his tough, rock-solid, rhythms; drummer Jon Ormston, with his busy, spidery approach; pianist Tom Taylor, with strong left-hand patterns and melodic upper register playing; and alto saxophonist Tom Harrison, with his tight, dry-toned, scattergun flurries. The standard stays high across the rest of Baxter's original compositions, which are replete with imaginative shifts in tempo, sudden stylistic changes and bursts of power.
"Darkish" really isn't—darkish, that is. It's an upbeat tune, building and relieving tension in turn and featuring some deft unison playing from Harrison and Taylor. Harrison—who leads the Dagda Quartet—delivers a fine solo, blowing strongly to give his sound an urgency and excitement that complements Ormston's muscular drumming and counters Baxter's more laidback groove; then, Taylor is left alone to deliver a more fragmented, skittering solo. "Monuments" has a stylish film noir feel, introduced with an air of mystery by Taylor's a cappella intro, Harrison's alto moves between softly romantic and frenetic, while Baxter's repetitive line speaks of dark, rain-soaked, streets.
"Para Lecouna" diverges from the band's more usual path, towards a slinky, Latin-influenced beat and the gentle melody of Harrison's flute. Harrison began to learn the instrument just three months before recording the track, yet he invests his playing with a mature sensibility as well as a warm, romantic, tone.
"AtoandaFro (Tales From The Lane)" starts, like "Blams," with a strong groove from the ensemble, and it sounds like a good time will continue to be had by all. Then, as with "Darkish," Taylor is left on his own. His slow, foreboding, piano is gradually joined by bass and drums to build up the album's most threatening atmosphere by far; by the time Harrison's shrieking alto joins in and Taylor plays piano like a man in fear of his life, the tension reaches fever pitch. There's a resolution of sorts in the closing bars, but whether the outcome is good or bad is hard to say.
The sonic frighteners applied by "AtoandaFro (Tales From The Lane)" are balanced out by the sweetly pretty "A Day In June" and the punchy post-bop style of "If Peggy Knew.... ," which bring Monuments to a close. There's a real breadth of talent on display here, a strong sense of narrative in Baxter's writing and some fearsomely excellent musicianship—a terrific debut recording, with bags of promise.

 

13/01/2013 Chris Parker

Paul Baxter Quartet - Monuments
(www.paulbaxtermusic.com/Hungry Bear Records (in th USA). CD Review by Chris Parker)

Bassist/composer Paul Baxter’s quartet (completed by alto player/flautist Tom Harrison, pianist Tom Taylor and drummer Jon Ormston) has been described as ‘a breath of fresh air for the UK jazz scene’ (by saxophonist Mornington Lockett), and this, the band’s debut recording, documents a fresh-sounding, snappy outfit with a penchant for tricksy rhythms and the odd burst of freeish playing.

Baxter’s compositions range from relatively straightforward, perky fare (‘Blams’) to slighly more convoluted pieces giving rise to various tempo and timbre changes (‘Darkish’, ‘Atoandafro (Tales from the Lane)’, a flute-led latin piece (‘Para Lecouna’) and a bustling closer, ‘If Peggy Knew...’, but whatever they’re playing (and one of the chief attractions of this album is the assured manner in which the quartet deals with the many colours contained in Baxter’s compositional palette), PBQ address it with infectious enthusiasm and musicianly poise; a review of the band’s live sound (‘powerful, punchy compositions with a snappy delivery’) hits the nail squarely on the head.
On Sunday, January 13, 2013

 

04/01/2013 Jazz Notes, Ron Burnett

Paul Baxter, Monuments (paulbaxtermusic.com)

The Baxter has been busy again and this release is with his new quartet of Tom Taylor (piano), Jon Ormston (drums) and Tom Harrison (alto saxophone and flute) playing a densely programmed collection of his new compositions. In fact so dense are some compositions that several listenings are required to catch all the nuances and complexities.

The title track has a spacey, lyrical piano introduction before Paul’s big bass sets up a pendulum-like ostinato over which Harrison’s alto saxophone floats freely. Unison piano and saxophone return briefly to a compelling melody. The urgent bridge passage in Darkish appears to be a tribute to Night in Tunisia, the spikey melody leading to a raising of tension, rounded off by an urgent alto solo.

Blams is a no-nonsense up-tempo piece, a dancing melody which features a muscular double bass solo. Para Lecouna has a flute lead over a Latin rhythm more subtle than the usual tendency to drive too furiously. The famous Baxter energy is well-captured in yet another impressive album, close on the heels of his previous release, The Thaw.

 

26/11/2012 Lance - Bebop Spoken Here

CD Review: Paul Baxter Quartet - Monuments


Tom Harrison (alt/fl); Tom Taylor (pno); Paul Baxter (bs); Jon Ormston (dms).
(Review by Lance.)

Double Bassist Paul Baxter's Quartet played a Splinter at the Bridge gig a couple of weeks ago that, due to other commitments, I missed. This, their début CD, goes some way to making up for it.
All pieces are by the leader and are further evidence of his ever increasing compositional skills. At times some of the voicings have a distinctly Mingus feel to them. On alto, Harrison sets the cane crop on fire with his blistering solos. He also displays a lyrical side on his Flute feature Para Lecouna. A to and a Fro (subtitled Tales From The Lane) sees a return to strident harmonic challenges as Harrison searches for and finds notes above and beyond the normal alto saxophone range. Baxter brings a return to sanity with a probing explorative bass solo that brings in A Day in June - presumably a reference to the month of June although, as the next track is titled If Peggy Knew.... maybe it isn't! Whatever, it's a lovely track full of tenderness from all concerned.
The Peggy track, like the opening Blams has a compelling angular theme and pianist Taylor displays how au fait he is with contemporary harmonies.
Ormston drives things along throughout coping easily with the many changes of mood and tempo.
For fans of accessible jazz of today it's well worth checking out which you can do here.

Lance.

 

18/11/0012 Russel

Paul Baxter Quartet @ The Bridge Hotel.

Paul Baxter (double bass), Tom Harrison (alto saxophone & flute), Tom Taylor (keyboards) & Jon Ormston (drums)
(Review by Russell).

Darkish, a darkish tune opened the set. Tom Harrison’s biting alto set the tone with the spirit of Coltrane in the air. Pianist Tom Taylor sketched out Monuments and Harrison eagerly stretched the canvas. The musicians clearly enjoyed one another’s company - a smile, a joke - with Baxter anything but the task master. The material was, for the most part, the bandleader’s, yet the standard My Foolish Heart stood out; intense alto, a beautiful piano part, measured bass playing and sensitive percussion from Jon Ormston.
A chart by Egberto Gismonti saw altoist Harrison switch briefly to flute resulting in the one occasion in which the sound balance was less than perfect. No such problems on A To and a Fro (Tales from the Lane) and A Day in June - these were open pieces inviting near free form explorations. If Peggy Knew What Happened To featured the talented Tom Taylor and the man at the keys excelled on the closing number Loads More Blues, as did alto star Harrison, likewise bass man Baxter and drummer Jon Ormston had some fun with a solo before Harrison’s alto took it home.
This was another good Splinter gig. One thing…where was the audience? Was Charlie Parker on the telly? Well, whatever, you missed a damn fine alto player, indeed a damn fine band. Maybe next time…and make ‘next time’ next week - Sunday November 25 – when there is an intriguing double bill of Sonsale and the Tom Gibbs Quartet. Splinter has joined forces with Jazz North East to present a world premiere performance by Sonsale featuring four musicians, three of whom are known to Tyneside audiences. Gateshead lad (and Splinter supremo) Andy Champion hooks up once more with vibes star Corey Mwamba in a collaboration with two leading French musicians – the brilliant drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq and Valentin Ceccaldi (cello). The other half of the bill features pianist Tom Gibbs with Will Vinson (alto) and the bass and drums pairing of Euan Burton and James Maddren. Make a note – the session starts half an hour earlier than usual at 7:30 pm.
Russell.

 

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