JOHN POPE QUINTET
Mixed With Glass
(2021 - New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings - UK)
One might take a scalpel and carve a nice giving statue of clay, but such a piece as this could not be created by such soft hands. This was with inclusion of a pick axe, to chisel away decades of hardened stone, a reveal of parts otherwise that would remained buried. The collective members of this extraordinary five artist ensemble, do indeed produce some of the most pointed, alive with fresh fire dancing off those flames compositions ever, all originated by double bass creator John Pope. Supporting this all so one of a kind outfit are: Jamie Stockbridge (Alto Saxophone), Faye MacCalman (Tenor Saxophone / Clarinet), Graham Hardy (Trumpet / Pocket Trumpet), and Johnny Hunter (Drums). As said, all compositions by John Pope, however, the arrangements are beyond rare and deep with close intimate transference from one master to another among the participants. One dedicated listen and all readers will witness precisely what I speak of here.
There is handiwork far past the norm, and knowing the previous work of Johnny Hunter, I knew the source of the other musicians were upscale and elite in a world where criteria of making music, was superior to much of the monthly offerings dished out oh so quickly in our too dominate online world. I cannot brag enough about the whole cast of players, as they bring Pope's ideas to the brink of brilliance, then allow those moments to suspend and breath special glow. John Pope is no elder but cannot be considered a newbie either, although many may not be familiar with him outside Newcastle. He is a member of another highly skilled jazz based outfit called Archipelago (who also have a release coming out June 2021, titled "Echoes To The Sky") on the New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings as well. He has played on many other recordings including combos such as Knotts/MacCalman/Pope. His earlier gigs include working with greats like Joe McPhee, John Ward, and bands Ponyland (described as "polymath experimentalist"), Midnight Doctors (who perform a dark, narcotic soundtrack style of mixed genres), and too many to list in one review. All are excellent. Check him out for more outstanding music. John is also a current participator of Serious Music Take Five (an annual talent development program for emerging jazz and improvising musicians/composers produced by Serious, and funded by the PRS Foundation, Help Musicians, Arts Council England, and Serious Trust). This release has a different line up than his other groups but oh so adventurous and sure to please lovers of originality gone transcendent.
As for 'Mixed With Glass', this recording keeps a probing quick-witted level the entire set of measures, and not only does it trample stereotypes quite often, but outweighs a bulk of both old and new attempts to perform lucid, binary improv that entices and invites full involvement on the reception end of the speakers, to give listeners a pleasure not so common to find. John Pope proves more so than ever, he is an artist/composer first. He uses bass as a vehicle to pass on his capability to bring all things to perfection. Each composition is potent and critical with the subtle eye-opening presentation from five outrageously great players, who could not be replaced no matter the imagination.
This is a hot pink colored disc, with same unusual facile cover art, but with a structure dead center, that may say more about the music inside than I can. In the nice gate-fold jacket, are pictures of the band, and offering quite a nice physical package is additional card sleeve, and disc enclosure. The is a new label and was established during the worst of the Covid-19 lockdown. New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings, offers a supporting recording label for those so hurt by the lack of live concert scene. On top of this, the label is highly sensitive to the environmental issues, using a carbon neutral manufacturing plant (and distributors), as well as using recycled and biodegradable materials whenever possible. This physical package is a first run for NEW JAIM Recordings. If you love dynamics, that all move from exciting to cerebral in juxtaposing manner, and beautifully laid out avant-jazz pieces that connect like a first rate puzzle, effortlessly executed (only due to the high level of musicianship by these members) and performed as if this was the most important recording in history, then this is something you will love forever and again. MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 4 - 30 - 2021