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Thursday, September 29, 2016

CD Review: Square One – In Motion

Joe Williamson (guitar), Peter Johnstone (piano), David Bowden (bass) & Stephen Henderson (drums & percussion)
(Review by Russell)
Four undergraduates met at the Conservatoire of Scotland. They formed a quartet, played some gigs, recorded an EP, and, as recipients of the 2015 Peter Whittingham Jazz Award, recorded a debut CD in April 2016. The band is Square One, the album is In Motion. The band’s publicity suggests the music embraces variously ECM Euro-cool, folk, fusion and, of course, jazz.
Ten tracks, all of which are group compositions, span precisely sixty minutes. Beginning with the title track – Square One – keeps things simple, saying to the listener: This is who we are. Joe Williamson, guitar, Peter Johnstone, piano, David Bowden (double bass) and Stephen Henderson (drums) have rapidly developed a collective identity; strong, melodic compositions negotiated with impressive, mature musicianship.

A shimmering, yet taut Full Circle is the sound of jazz today. Bowden and Henderson are assured navigators of the developing joyous melody. Bowden’s resonant strings-on-wood double bass playing on Eastern Ballad is expertly recorded by engineer Stuart Hamilton. Quicksand and Quicksand – Part 2 feature Williamson’s urgent, flowing lines, quelled by Johnstone’s Part 2 calming influence. Bowden’s bass features on 12 with a suggestion of Milestones underpinning the tune.
Crawler is a standout track for at least two reasons: a wonderful, sprawling blues number with Williamson’s down-in-the-hole solo punctuated by Johnstone’s descending patterns, and, it is (successfully) atypical of the album as a whole. In Motion succeeds in the fusing of folk melody with jazz improvisation. Recorded at Castlesound Studios in Pencaitland, the album is Square One’s calling card. Released on 4 October, In Motion is a thoroughly recommended purchase. Square One embark upon a European tour at the Spotted Dog in Birmingham on 4 October. Three dates in Poland follow (including Theatre in the Castle, Przemsyl, 23 October), then there is a home turf gig at the Hug and Pint in Glasgow and a London date at the Vortex on 29 November.                                                                             
Russell.
In Motion (SQ1CD1601) is available on the quartet's bandcamp page.

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