GRAHAM SOUTH QUARTET
By And By
(2020 - EFPI Records - UK)
If you listen to this without knowing a thing about it, you will easily recognize it being very lyrical, mellow, and with deep flow to it. Your perception is grounded by the fact that the compositions are all based on spiritual hymns (traditional African American spirituals to be precise). Yes, jazz arrangements with a magical translation from their early sources, done with such artistic value, huge respect, and potter's touch, that they transcend into their new form quite perfectly.
All the pieces are the said traditional spirituals and arranged by Graham South (of Manchester) with the exception of track two ('Interlude') which is also the shortest cut on the album at 3:49, however it does allow all of the players to open up a bit more, as it is composed by all four of them. The quartet (which is actually their debut) involves Graham South : trumpet/ Richard Jones : piano/ Seth Bennett : bass/ and Johnny Hunter : drums. There is no shortage of talent and in fact, the listener is given an aural feast along with an emotional experience. Which emotions will vary from person to person, but the music holds a lot to those who pay close attention.
The hymns come from a Michael Tippett work titled 'A Child of Our Time', and South says the album took to its birth as a commission from conductor Marcus Farnsworth and Southwell Music Festival back in 2018. This record was published near the end of 2020. The music is given room to breathe and with the opening piece ('Nobody Knows' 14:30), most everyone will realize a familiar melody. and as the music moves, it may well remind some of the ECM styles of other trumpet maestros Palle Mikkelborg or Tomasz Stańko, although South has his own technique. Be sure that the classic years (1970's) of ECM lovers will find much to love here. The playful and respectful scrutiny everyone gives the tunes will give repeated pleasure. The staccato but round full bass licks Seth Bennett gives, the animated drums Johnny Hunter adds, and the foundational beautifully laid out piano work Richard Jones presents, all allow Graham South to put his highly wistful trumpet in a final touch way.
On a great label that has released extra fine music by Johnny and Anton Hunter, Adam Fairhall, and many other superb artists, 'By And By' is a fantastic addition to the collection. The title track ('By And By') fully shows Bennett's skill on bass. A wonderful combinations of harmonic, driving, and ornamental artistry, he then takes off with the rest of the band. This might be the most joyful piece on the album. Again, one in where all the players demonstrate their abilities in a most celebrative way. More than half of the cuts are extended in the 12-14 minute range. No moment is wasted. Richard Jones stands out on a gorgeous piano solo on the last composition ('Deep River') with the rest of the band completing what is one impressive project. It is easy on the ears, the mind, and heart. Yes it is soulful, but also with a gigantic dose of good taste.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 11 - 10 - 2021