The critic, author and academic Frank Kermode, who died last week, launched into a book review in 2002 with this sentence: “This book is primarily the product of some fiercely hard reading.” It’s such a thought-provoking remark: Kermode assesses the merits of the writing by reference to the reading that went into it.
Somehow this seems a very valid approach to adopt when listening to a jazz record. The ability to listen – fiercely, why not? – is every bit as important as the ability to play. There’s that long term type of listening, the absorbing and internalizing of styles and language. And there’s also the collective listening, in the moment. The ability to dovetail, to comment, to challenge, to respond.
The quality of the listening in Neon Quartet ‘s new CD Catch Me (Edition) is phenomenal. Jim Hart on Vibes and Kit Downes somehow, magically, alchemically, stay out of each other’s way, match volume levels, weave a story together. The second track, Leaving Day, is preceded by a free introduction, beautifully recorded.
Stan Sulzmann has been setting players of harmony instruments that challenge for years – I remember a quartet with Malcolm Edmonstone and Rob Taggart which I don’t think ever recorded.
Neon started as a trio with Stan Sulzmann, Gwilym Simcock and Jim Hart. It lasted for a couple of years, until a year ago. The new Neon started with a single date as a trio at the Glasgow showcase in September 2009 where Kit Downes depped for Gwilym Simcock. And the success of that collaboration has led to the re-emergence of Neon as a Quartet with the the addition of a drummer, Tim Giles. Giles has worked regularly with Kit Downes in James Allsop’s band Golden Age of Steam, whose performancesare freely improvised. Giles is allowd that role in this record, but nails the grooves as required.
Edition Records are doing great things.
Catch Me will be released next Monday October 18th. A copy is on offer to LondonJazz newsletter readers as this week’s prize draw,
UPDATE – Check out a nice review from Peter Quinn at theartsdesk.com (It’s about 3/4 down a very long page)
6th Nov – Hideaway, London
7th Nov – The Ship, Sevenoaks
10th Nov – Jazz at the Field, Haslingden
12th Nov – Komedia, Brighton
20th Nov – Barbican Foyer – 3pm – 4pm