CD REVIEW: The Gascoyne O’Higgins Quartet – The Real Note vol.2

The Gascoyne O’Higgins Quartet – The Real Note vol.2
(Jazzizit Records, JITCD 1461. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Recorded nearly two years after its predecessor “Got The Real Note”, The Real Note vol. 2 features the same quartet, and consists mostly of original compositions by its co-leaders, bassist Geoff Gascoyne and saxophonist Dave O’Higgins.

The album begins with “a messed up minor blues”, Darkness. After a suspense-building bass intro, the restless theme is stated; Sebastiaan de Krom’s crisp drumming immediately catches the ear, and Graham Harvey delivers a thrilling piano solo that wells up and subsides. Although the opener is not typical of the material that follows, the musicianship sets the tone for an exciting set.

Seven of the 11 tracks are based on the chord sequences of jazz standards, and have titles that hint at their origin. Shark Avenue – after “On Green Dolphin Street” – is an attractive samba. In 5/4 time, Five Moods is an adaptation of “I’m in the Mood for Love” and incorporates melodic (in addition to rhythmic) elements of “Take Five”. Gascoyne takes “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and transforms it into a bold and absorbing Vision. Little examination is required to determine the Basie-associated core of Autopsy, while O’Higgins’ hearty tenor on I Got Arrythmia (in 7/4) has the drive of Bob Berg and the warmth of Joe Henderson.

Two of the highlights showcase O’Higgins on soprano sax. Dedication is a waltz rooted in the gentle pop song “May Each Day,” made famous by Andy Williams in 1966 (I don’t think I’ve ever heard it performed by anyone else). De Krom is in his element on RSVP, which is a swaggering and audacious version of “Invitation”. Sheer pleasure!

In addition to the re-workings, a couple of familiar pieces are played straight. The grace and beauty of Sophisticated Lady shine through, and the closing Broadway – a bit too fast and bombastic for my liking – successfully conjures up the frenetic bustle of a New York rush hour.

Frequent changes of pace and time signature give the album a rather unsettled quality, but the occasional fussiness of the arrangements is outweighed by their impact. The music is tuneful enough for casual enjoyment, and experienced listeners will be kept on their toes by the more adventurous passages.

As always on the Jazzizit label, the production is exemplary. With The Real Note vol.2, Gascoyne, O’Higgins, Harvey and de Krom have come up with another terrific album.

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