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CD Review: Chris Higginbottom – Where Land Ends

Chris Higginbottom – Where Land Ends
(F-IRECD 63. CD Review by Chris Parker)

Drummer/composer Chris Higginbottom’s debut CD, One (Basho, 2005) featured (mainly) acoustic post-bop (originals, interspersed with modern jazz classics by the likes of Wayne Shorter, Bud Powell and Vernon Duke) played by a relatively conventional jazz quartet (tenor/soprano, keyboards, bass and drums); this, his follow-up, is a horse of a different colour: a many-hued blend of jazz, blues, rock and electronica featuring guitarist Mike Outram, keyboardist Tom Cawley and bassist Rob Mullarkey alongside the leader, who wrote all six tracks.

These range unaffectedly between all the above-mentioned genres, anchored by Higginbottom’s bristlingly energetic drumming and Mullarkey’s rock-steady bass, embellished by Cawley’s intelligently varied keyboards and spearheaded by Outram’s protean guitar skills.

Like the music produced by a number of other drummer/leaders (Asaf Sirkis springs immediately to mind), the compositions spring from a beat or rhythm that clearly intrigues Higginbottom and gives rise to a slowly intensifying collective workout, Outram by turns howling, swooning or burning as required, while Cawley quietly decorates and embellishes.

The standout cut is the final, title-track, which slowly builds to one of the most frenetic climaxes you’re likely to hear this year, but throughout, the intensity and sheer commitment of this fiercely interactive band is mighty impressive.

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