Alex Merritt Quartet, Anatta, F-IRE

From November 2015. This quartet album – debuting tenor saxophonist Alex Merritt with old hands bassist Sam Lasserson, pianist John Turville and drummer Jeff Williams is one of the best UK jazz recordings I’ve heard this year but I’ll try to curb my …

Published: 25 Dec 2019. Updated: 2 years.

From November 2015. This quartet album – debuting tenor saxophonist Alex Merritt with old hands bassist Sam Lasserson, pianist John Turville and drummer Jeff Williams is one of the best UK jazz recordings I’ve heard this year but I’ll try to curb my enthusiasm to give a bit more detail. Anatta, the title comes from Buddhism and means ‘no self’, is a Cool School record and relies on that diffident, seemingly casual cultured cold storage bebop style familiar from Warne Marsh, Lennie Tristano and vintage Lee Konitz records (in Williams there is a direct connection with Konitz).

Clever and very musically advanced the band play around with contrafacts that Merritt has written based on lines of Tristano, Marsh and Konitz plus the material also includes treatments of Monk, Eubie Blake and Thelonious Monk material and Merritt’s own tunes that match well.

Merritt, who studied at the Birmingham Conservatoire, has a softly spoken slightly gruff sound that navigates a lot of territory often manipulating little half scales and elaborative forays, almost pushing at the tune to reveal some hidden trapdoor. And he is elegantly backed by Williams, Turville and Lasserson.

You might think you have stepped back into the 1950s and entered in on some post-midnight jam session in New York when you hear this or even have found yourself transported into a photograph by someone like W. Eugene Smith. But it’s more a successful musical universe the four have created than any laboured sense of pastiche. SG

Tags:

Maciek Pysz, A Journey, Dot Time Records

From 2015. I enjoyed Insight, Maciek Pysz’s 2013 record, and there are echoes of that winning formula here with bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer Asaf Sirkis joining the guitarist once again, the playing addition this time the warm presence of …

Published: 25 Dec 2019. Updated: 2 years.

Next post

From 2015. I enjoyed Insight, Maciek Pysz’s 2013 record, and there are echoes of that winning formula here with bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer Asaf Sirkis joining the guitarist once again, the playing addition this time the warm presence of bandoneonist Daniele di Bonaventura.

With a pastoral sound Pysz plays mainly his own gently persuasive compositions plus a version of Ralph Towner song ‘Innocente’, and there’s a delicate humanity to the atmosphere throughout, sometimes touching on Pat Metheny territory by cleverly harnessing complex acoustic melodic lines underpinned by a very emotion-laden but uncloying sense of harmony.

Di Bonaventura adds plenty of interest as a foil to the guitarist, for instance on the atmospheric ‘Paris’, and Goloubev’s deft bass accompaniment contributes a great deal to the sheer tonal warmth of the band sound. There is some beautiful stuff here – a must for jazz guitar fans. SG