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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

CD Review: Delta Saxophone Quartet with Gwilym Simcock – Crimson!

Gwilym Simcock (pianoforte), Graeme Blevins (soprano saxophone), Pete Whyman (alto saxophone), Tim Holmes (tenor saxophone) & Chris Caldwell (baritone saxophone)
(Review by Russell)
The saxophone quartet is a familiar unit to both a classical audience and a jazz audience. A classical enthusiast will listen to a Haydn string quartet at home or in the concert hall without looking around for the jazz fan’s rhythm section comfort blanket. On this Basho Records’ CD the Delta Saxophone Quartet’s approach was to commission a cross-genre work from Gwilym Simcock to arrange for strings and pianoforte.
The ‘prog rock’ band King Crimson provided the source material and a musical link. An earlier association with Bill Bruford’s Earthworks gave Simcock an insight to a world of extended rock (frequently jazz-rock inflected) pieces, with drummer Bruford an alumnus of a late incarnation of King Crimson. This beautifully recorded new release comes in at just under forty-five minutes. Six tracks, the first of them – A Kind of Red – is a Simcock composition, the others a reworking of King Crimson’s output spanning twenty years or more.
The Deltas’ jazz credentials are secure with the participation of the likes of Pete Whyman (alto) having worked with Mike Westbrook and Simcock’s upbringing in classical music make for an empathetic meeting of minds. Whyman’s soprano on the opening track hears Simcock’s pianoforte (‘pianoforte’, one for the classical buffs) comping and meeting the saxophonist at the other end. VROOM/Coda: Marine 475 from King Crimson’s THRAK (1995) – a prog rock title if ever there was one! – veers from an urgent rock pulse via the tenor saxophone of Tim Holmes to filmic minimalism.
The Night Watch from 1974’s Starless and Bible Black incorporates everything. Yes, that well-known prog rock gumbo; collective expressionism (Lark Ascending stuff), anthemic glory, elegant tenor, ruminating piano, a sustained final chord brilliantly recorded by the band’s soprano saxophonist Graeme Blevins doubling up as recording engineer. THRAK yields another tune (all prog rock ten minutes and fifty-nine seconds of it); Dinosaur. An open invitation awaits…Dinosaur…prog rock…nuff said. Much going on here, a bluesy pianoforte, Whyman prominent, great urgency.
The closing number – The Great Deceiver from Starless and Bible Black – showcases the jazz chops of all concerned; flying reeds, arresting voicings, a Blevins and Whyman dual.
Russell.
Crimson! by the Delta Saxophone Quartet is available now on Basho Records SRCD 50-2. The album’s accompanying notes includes an informative essay by Sid Smith from Whitley Bay.

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