Review: Matt Ridley Quartet

Matt Ridley at the Salisbury
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved

Matt Ridley Quartet
(The Salisbury, 8th April 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

This double-bill in the Salisbury’s vibrant jazz season served as a reminder of the abundance of prodigious talent out there in the young British jazz scene.

The first set matched the spacious flow of Andrew Woolf‘s mellow tenor with Ryan Williams’ hanging chordal backdrops and bright melodic fretboard spins. ‘Jürgen Klinsmann’, a Williams composition introduced as “The greatest German centre forward since 1986”, synched his lightly clipped phrasing, Jim Hall-style, with a carefully stated response from Woolf and had the guitarist sampling to complete the lightly funky, on-field vignette. Neil Young’s ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’ went through quiet, gritty explorations before its theme welled up with heartfelt momentum. They countered with sparse, peppery interplay on Steve Coleman’s ‘Micro-Move’ and the minimalist rigour of Woolf’s ‘Temenos’, a candidate, perhaps, for a large group arrangement with its ancient Greek and Jungian references to sacred, protected space.

Bassist Matt Ridley‘s quartet just asked to be listened to. Their fiery opening gambit had the quartet powering through ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’ with all the drive of Chick Webb in his heyday. Tom Challenger and Alam Nathoo on saxophones traded earthy phrases, boldly out on their own, blasting with an ebullient confidence and the gutsy bravura of a Zoot Sims – Al Cohn duet. The maturity of the delivery extended to the rhythm section, with drummer Nick Smalley absolutely aware of when to exercise a less-is-more attack to pin down the pace and Matt Ridley‘s calm flourishes making every note count. Not to get typecast they tackled the tight tensions of Sam Rivers’ ‘Fuchsia Swan Song’ with Nathoo digging in to the lower registers and Challenger taking up the hi-speed reins in a manner that would have pleased its author.

Ridley staked out the ground with his delicate solo in their warm definition of Wayne Shorter’s mid-60s ballad, ‘Vonetta’. Smalley applied bare knuckles and soft mallets and the saxes pulled back with conviction and impressively constrained style to complete the magical portrait. Ridley’s ‘One Near Miss Once’, based on a Kenny Wheeler chord progression, fielded raw, driving and well-drilled tenor interplay with the knowing restraint of the rhythm section, who put down the markers at exactly the right points.

This was an impressive, engaging performance, full of vitality and ingenuity. The quartet had absorbed and learnt, found their voices and further consolidated the case for the burgeoning new generation in British jazz.

Williams/Woolf Duo
Ryan Williams: guitar
Andrew Woolf: tenor sax

Matt Ridley Quartet
Matt Ridley: double bass
Tom Challenger: tenor sax
Alam Nathoo: tenor sax
Nick Smalley: drums

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. I was one of the few others at this gig – if I had noticed you sketching, I'd have said hi! It shouldn't have been hard to spot each other, given the sparse nature of the audience…

    I had very much the same impression as you: that there are a lot of talented young musicians out there. I was impressed by both bands. Riddley's quartet had just the right mixture of old and new for a gloomy Sunday night in a pub!

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