(Whirlwind Recordings. CD Review by Tom Gray)
The UK tour by guitarist Phil Robson’s IMS Quintet back in January earned glowing reviews and will undoubtedly feature among the live highlights of the year for many who made it. This album recorded during those live dates is packed with delights throughout its 70-plus minutes.
Much of the listening pleasure here stems from the sense of Robson, Mark Turner on saxes and Gareth Lockrane on flute really stretching out, using the extended space afforded to them to craft some elegant, engaging improvisations. Lockrane’s soaring opening statement on ‘Nassarius Beads’ sets a very high benchmark early on from which the group do not deviate.
The soloists’ stories all unfold over a dynamic backdrop, with Ernesto Simpson’s pin-sharp precision on drums paired with the robust, responsive bass playing of Michael Janisch.
Robson’s compositions are, however, much more than just blowing vehicles and there is plenty to admire in these succinct, punchy themes. The way Robson harnesses the textural possibilities of an unconventional combination of frontline instruments and subtly marries straight-ahead postbop with earthy, odd time signature grooves is reminiscent of the writing of Dave Holland (and the playing here is certainly worthy of one of Holland’s ensembles).
Highlights include the asymmetric funk of the title track, ingeniously constructed around a Morse code-like one note pattern from Lockrane’s piccolo, and the breezy swinger ‘The Instant Message’.Any listener who regrets not being there during the recording of this live album will get a second chance to see this fine group next month: they play the Purcell Room as part of the London Jazz Festival.
The CD will be issued on November 7th.