Opibania
Dominic Lash Quartet
Opabinia
Babel
****
Released as far back as distant September yet for some reason there haven’t been any reviews at least that I’ve seen, which is a pity, as many listeners won’t really be aware of this fine record. Lash is joined by pianist Alexander Hawkins (also Convergence, and Decoy), London-based Spanish drummer Javier Carmona, and Carmona’s fellow countryman, the Madrid-born reeds player Ricardo Tejero who is also based in the UK. ‘Isthmus’, the opener, has a lingering serenity that unfolds into fractured piano passages while ‘Waiting for Javier /Luzern’ has a jumpy syncopated energy to it that is very appealing. The first time I heard Lash play was when he performed with the much missed drummer Steve Reid at Camden’s Jazz Café in 2009 playing electric bass although Lash is generally better known as a double bassist and Opabinia is about double bass. But more than that it's about compositional method and a new way of seeing the music, and it's also about the resourcefulness of a group of like-minded improvisers. Lash, like his fellow bassist John Edwards, prefers open often highly volatile playing situations, a certain danger in the air, I suppose where true improvising lies in that unknowingness. The album shares a name remarkably with an extinct five-eyed creature thought to have lived in the soft sediment on the seabed in prehistoric times. However, there’s little fossilised about Lash’s approach here, the album breathing extravagant life into the dead, sometimes moribund, mannerisms of the routines of free-improvising and managing to connect the old, in jazz terms, with the ultra-modern in the realm of contemporary post-Cagian composition. Hawkins’ accompaniment often sounds as if it belongs in the early-jazz era, while Lash’s springy, complex rhythms, a place where swing, a mighty sublimated groove and harder-to-ascertain abstractions are never that far away. Behind both Hawkins and Tejero on a track such as the Gannets-like ‘Azalpho’  Lash makes you really listen: a rare gift.