Martin Kershaw – The Howness
(EJF Records EJF112. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘Inspired by a life-long love of reading, and especially of those authors who put human behaviour under the microscope and examine the “howness” of it, in search of wider truths about existence’ is how saxophonist/composer Martin Kershaw describes the artistic route that led him to produce this, his third album as a leader. Unlike his previous outings, this is a quartet album (with powerful guitarist Graeme Stephen on the opening couple of tracks), the band completed by pianist Paul Harrison, bassist Euan Burton and drummer Doug Hough, and it showcases not only Kershaw’s supremely adaptable and cogent alto playing, but also his considerable compositional gifts.
Highlights include the wonderfully gritty title track, a suitably eccentric but unfussily affecting tribute to the late great David Foster Wallace (‘But So’), and an appropriately sinister, insinuating tune inspired by one of the most chillingly convincing monsters in 20th-century fiction, Steerpike, from Mervyn Peake’s splendid gothic fantasy Gormenghast trilogy.
Concluding with an impressive rearrangement of Charlie Parker’s ‘Steeplechase’, this is a compelling but absorbingly varied album, on which Kershaw moves easily between an almost Getzian sweet warbling sound and more abrasive playing as required, and is shadowed every step of the way by a smart, inventive and at times fierily interactive band.