Greg Cordez Paper Crane
(Ninety and Nine Records. NNCD022. review by Jon Turney)
Greg Cordez has been one of the go-to bassists in Bristol over the last few years, and has enrolled four of the city’s best players in his quintet for this rather lovely album. He’s a fine player, too, but it’s the writing – all 10 tracks are his – that comes through most strongly here. There’s one unaccompanied bass intro, when the depth of his sound reverberates, but hardly any bass soloing as such. The leader’s reticence – which some, like Gary Giddins, think becoming for bass players – allows the others to shine. Nick Malcolm’s astringent lyricism on trumpet and Jake McMurchie’s rich, spirited tenor sax impress throughout, as does Mark Whitlam’s thoughtfully varied drumming. But for me pianist Jim Blomfield responds even more brilliantly to these pieces. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him play better. There’s a crystalline clarity to his sound when he is laying out the themes and a string of solos, some reflective, some tumultuous, that provide a succession of standout moments.
Cordez’s writing is most often gently song-like, although the longest track, 8.23 (the time it takes light to reach Earth from the Sun) takes a more upbeat, rock-inflected path and Schrodinger vs Cat does likewise with some scrunchy electronics and free blowing for good measure. Several of the other tunes have an attractively melancholic undertow, including one titled after the unsung drummer Ron Free (yes, it’s a real name) and the closing 1000 Paper Cranes. That title references origami, as does the CD’s cleverly folded sleeve, reflecting the care and attention to detail that characterises the whole set. There’s nothing thrown together here – memorable as the results of that can be in the right session. This is considered music-making, illuminated when the band play live by the stories Cordez tells about the inspiration for each piece. But the story-telling in the playing is sufficient to itself on the recording, one which contains pieces that reveal themselves to be pleasantly insinuating when you realise at the end you’d quite like to listen to them all again right away.