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12,160 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 1300 of them this year alone and, so far, 2 this month (Dec. 1).

Sunday, November 18, 2018

CD Review: Square One featuring Andy Middleton - Double Bind.

Joe Williamson (guitar); Peter Johnstone (piano); David Bowden (double bass); Stephen Henderson (drums/percussion); Andy Middleton (tenor/soprano saxophones).
(Review by Steve T)
I remember interviewing this band at the Ushaw Festival, enjoying their set, and their debut album. However, this album marks an exponential growth and development from a promising band you'll turn out to see when they come round, buy the album and play it a couple of times, to a maturity many comparable bands never attain.

Nor do I put this down to the presence of the special guest, who wrote five of the nine originals, with the individual band members contributing one each. I only checked this after two listens and was surprised since you really can't hear a join, so complete is his assimilation into the band.


Darlington born Joe Williamson has turned out to be a bit of a beast, wearing the Mike Walker influence on his sleeve, and whenever he cranks it up, which he does quite often throughout the set, the music never fails to go up another level. He also throws in some of these fancy modern chords to confound the expectations of the listener. 

Pianist Peter Johnstone is the revelation here, generally understated but with huge technical facility to draw on when required. I love his dark, brooding, almost menacing chords behind the sax on the final track. Bowden on double bass and Henderson on drums make up an exemplary all-round performance; low on token solos, big on subtlety and sizzling on faster pieces.  

Middleton is a world-class saxophonist (Kenny Wheeler, Dave Holland) and slots into the band seamlessly, switching between tenor and soprano like the best of the classic jazz-funk players.
And the overall feel of this album is like a quality modern day fusion album but without the clichés and excess. Not jazz-funk, not jazz-rock and definitely not smooth jazz, it reminds me of the more understated, tasteful stuff, with its exclusively acoustic piano, like the great Jazz/Crusader Joe Sample.

It's also chock full of memorable melodies: sometimes heavy, sometimes more light-hearted, but never light, slight or trite.

A quite excellent album and definitely a band to keep both eyes on, they're playing a one-off gig at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Nov. 24.

Steve T. 

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