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Friday, May 10, 2019

Trish Clowes My Iris Quartet @ Sage Gateshead - May 8


Trish Clowes (tenor sax), Ross Stanley (piano/Hammond organ), Chris Montague (guitar) and James Maddren (drums)    
(Review by Chris Kilsby)

I wasn’t sure what to expect, perhaps something carefully arranged, introverted, or even academic, but on my first live hearing, this quartet turned out to be quite a handful, lighting up Sage 2 on a miserable wet evening with a clever and intense tapestry of original soundscapes. 

Their music is richly varied in feel, tempo and texture, often within the same song!  This might lead to information overload, but the show was secured by the visual spectacle and sheer variety, veering between velvet and violence.  Clowes has complete mastery of the tenor, with skronking split notes interspersed by soothing balm. Her lightning ability to transfer complex thought to action was equalled by the other virtuoso players.

The band took to the stage eschewing preliminaries, simply letting the music, mostly from new release Ninety Degrees Gravity, speak for itself. By the time they had warmed up with Lightning Les and Arise, they were at full speed, and clearly enjoying themselves,  for the excellent Eric's Tune - dedicated to Eric Gravatt (Weather Report drummer, early 70s edition). 

Some of the sax lines recalled the Wayne Shorter of that era, but with blistering guitar thrown in, and piano/B3 rather than Zawinul’s’ synths.  Clowes had a relaxed and genuine rapport with announcements between numbers, explaining the next one, I.F., was dedicated to the baby boys of the pianist and guitarist, complete with sound effects - not often you hear baby voices in Sage 2!
They really got going on I can’t find my other brush, where James Maddren further ramped up his already propulsive and abrupt variation of beat and feel, with a concluding barrage to satisfy the heaviest listeners!  The set closed with three very strong songs, with tunes and structure: Abbott & Costello (named after aliens from the sci-fi film Arrival, not the comedians!), Amber (a brand new song dedicated to a refugee charity activist) and Free to Fall, complete with an emotional vocal intro.

While Clowes' sax and Maddren’s  ever-shifting drums provided the main continuity, there were outstanding guitar breaks of great subtlety, speed and emotion from Chris Montague (a local boy apparently!), recalling Bill Frisell and Charles Altura,  as well as a flexible and startling variety of piano and Hammond organ from Ross Stanley, sometimes even doubling as a bass line.

Altogether a revelatory and stimulating musical romp, awash with intelligence and energy, with enough groove and smooth lines not to startle the horses!  My previous visit to Sage 2 was for the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars: while the technical mastery was similar, Clowes’ band had an altogether different, more ambitious take on jazz, drawing from the past for an exciting future.
Chris

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