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Friday, September 16, 2011

CD Review: Mark McKnight Organ Quartet - Do or Die

Mark McKnight (guitar), Seamus Blake (saxophone), Ross Stanley (organ) & James Maddren (drums) Mark McKnight's second CD Do or Die features a UK-based organ band. The tunes are McKnight's - the exception being Rodgers and Hart's Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered - and his hand-picked band has honed the material to perfection. 
The ubiquitous Ross Stanley plays Hammond with restraint never seeking to dominate. Drummer James Maddren - a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music - bristles with technique yet he too plays with commendable reserve. Band leader McKnight is a supremely gifted guitarist and New Yorker Seamus Blake's tenor complements and completes the group sound on this most satisfying new release from Whirlwind Recordings. 
The opening track, the eponymous Do or Die, sets the standard and features some post-Coltrane tenor intensity. Pieces is a relaxed piece exemplifying the CD as a whole. Nightcap goes with a lyrical, '60's Modern jazz feel; McKnight languorously fluent, Blake likewise, Stanley stabbing and swirling, Maddren wonderfully loose throughout. Bewitched is an inspired inclusion on this recording. A classic number, it is approached with due reverence and the result is stunning. It will be a long time before this take is bettered and hearing it live on the band's forthcoming UK tour will be an eagerly anticipated occasion. 
McKnight can do contemporary and Tease demonstrates the point. A drum 'n' bass vibe underpins McKnight's scaling of the heights and Blake joins in the fun with some blistering tenor work. On Contemplate Hammond maestro Stanley conjures an ethereal church organ sound upon which McKnight constructs a considered solo followed by superb tenor from Blake. The CD's closing number (We'll) Just Disappear is a fitting finale with Blake once again in the spotlight with more taut, intense playing of the highest order. 
The CD is officially released on 26th September. The band is about to embark on an extensive tour of the UK - the first date (the first of 14 gigs in 13 days!) is in Bristol this Sunday (18th). Hopefully the CD will be available at venues during the band's travels throughout the land. 
Check out Mark McKnight's website - - for details of where you can catch the band live. Do 0r Die (Whirlwind Recordings WR461)

1 comment :

Dan Blake said...

Hi Russell,

If you would like a copy of Seamus Blake's most recent CD, "live at Smalls" to review please send me a mailing address.

Dan Blake (

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