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CD Review: Mark McKnight Organ Quartet – Do or Die

Mark McKnight Organ Quartet – Do or Die
(Whirlwind recordings. CD Review by Thomas Gray)

Belfast-born guitarist Mark McKnight has pulled off a coup in enlisting the services of Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone for his second album ‘Do or Die’.

The New Yorker imbues this album with an unmistakably American sound, from gutsy R&B-inflected hard-bop playing on ‘Nightcap’ to a standout solo of lyrical beauty on ‘Bewitched’, which manages to carve out fresh angles from the timeworn standard.

No less shrewd is the pairing of Ross Stanley on organ and James Maddren on drums who make a classy, responsive rhythm section. These two once more show how the gap between the best UK musicians and Blake’s fellow countrymen has been obliterated. Stanley makes a particularly valuable contribution, drawing on a diverse array of timbres to enrich each piece and turning in a few solos that strongly suggest the influence of Larry Goldings in their unhurried yet adventurous development.

In this high-calibre company, McKnight easily holds his own. His elastic sense of time, subtle use of distortion and fluent, complex lines bring to mind Kurt Rosenwinkel. Yet his virtuosity is balanced by a sense that he wants to take the listener with him, throwing in a well-judged hook here and there to allow us to catch up. The strength and variety of his compositions, from the laid-back swung waltz ‘Pieces’ to the knotty drum & bass of ‘Tease’, also mark him out as a notable talent worth paying attention to.

The album boasts a superior recording quality, and is released on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings label, which after less than two years of existence is steadily building an interesting catalogue.

The “Do or Die” Album Launch Tour starts tonight in Bristol. London dates are September 19th , 606 Club, and 29th, Ronnie Scott’s. FULL TOUR DATES

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