(Basho SRCD 43-2. CD Review by Chris Parker)
‘… different spaces for improvisation rather than the usual theme and improvising sequence’ – this is the accompanying publicity’s take on the music written by pianist Gwilym Simcock and guitarist Mike Walker for this, the second album by the Impossible Gentlemen, completed by bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum.
Much of the music on the band’s debut album had already been written before the quartet’s formation, but for this recording Walker and Simcock (and, on the closer, ‘Ever After’, Swallow) have tailored their compositions to fit the specific requirements of the group, which moves unaffectedly between tight, tastefully funky jazz-rock and more mellifluous, breezy jazz, the latter mode, on two Simcock tracks, ‘Just to See You’ and ‘Barber Blues’ accommodating the subtly driving acoustic bass of producer Steve Rodby.
The surefooted Swallow and the deftly propulsive but powerful Nussbaum both have ‘a kind of natural compositional spontaneity which sculpts the music without any hint of trying to own it’ – to quote Walker on Nussbaum – so Walker’s declared ‘interest in blurring the lines between jazz, rock, pop and classical music … [to create] a new, organic whole’ and Simcock’s more overtly jazz-rooted rolling lyricism (itself – as in the aforementioned 16-bar ‘Barber Blues’, which is inspired by one of the American composer’s ‘Excursions’ – tinged with classical influences) are both fully realised in this varied and absorbing programme.
Walker (as can be heard in the album’s opener, ‘Heute Loiter’) is a stickler for identifying the precise guitar sound and texture he needs on each particular track, and is adept at slowly building climactic tension into his solos once he has found it, and Simcock is simply one of the most eloquent and natural-sounding improvisers in contemporary jazz, so their partnership at the helm of this inventive, unfussily virtuosic band has indeed produced an album packed with (to quote Rodby) ‘strong writing and playing – such vitality [expressing] their personalities in every soulful measure’.
The band’s forthcoming 12-date UK tour, starting (10 October) in Dorking and ending (26) in Cardiff, is, on the evidence of this compulsively listenable album, a mouth-watering prospect.