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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

CD Review: Phil Donkin – The Gate

Phil Donkin (double bass), Ben Wendel (tenor saxophone), Glenn Zaleski (piano) & Jochen Rückert (drums)
(Review by Russell)
From Sunderland to London to New York and on to Germany – bassist and composer Phil Donkin has travelled the jazz world. The Gate is Donkin’s debut release as a leader. Recorded in Brooklyn, NYC during August 2013, it is only now, some eighteen months on that the CD sees the light of day.
The Gate comprises ten tracks composed by Donkin and two arrangements (Thelonious Monk’s Introspection and Dimitri Shostakovich’s Prelude no 23 in F major). The title track is a subdued, reflective piece featuring the composer’s commanding introduction and the measured response of Ben Wendel’s tenor and Glenn Zaleski’s piano. In contrast, Macon Groove and Introspection positively fly. Drummer Jochen Rückert navigates the bop language with élan and on Birthday Samba demonstrates he can handle anything the composer-bandleader throws at him as Zaleski lays down a dazzlingly fluid solo.
Butterfingers is in safe hands with this quartet; Donkin’s walking bass line encourages Wendel to strike out and when the tenor has had its say there is Donkin (he hadn’t gone anywhere) alongside the most impressive Rückert. Submerged doesn’t let up, Zaleski’s solo finding common ground with Wendel’s tenor on a late Trane vibe. Unusually the track ends on a fade-out. Perhaps the quartet played on and on, such was the groove!
One for Johnny; the title suggests a bop-era number (horn players trading etc). It is an example of twenty first century swinging, modern jazz. Yesterday at My House is the killer cut. A furious, unrelenting pace – all four musicians burn it up. At three minutes and thirty five seconds think Little Giant or Tubbs working with the best. Hear it!  
The Gate is released on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings’ label WR4668 on March 9th. Phil Donkin tours the UK during March starting tonight (Tuesday 3rd) at the Sound Cellar in Poole, Dorset. The official album launch gig is at the Pizza Express in Soho, London on March 10th. The Gate is a serious contender for the best album release of 2015. Recommended.
Russell
Note: Jochen Ruckert is unavailable for the UK tour. Fortunately James Maddren appears at Poole and Dempsey’s, Cardiff (March 4th) and Colin Stranahan fulfills all other dates.      

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