Square One – In Motion
(SQ1CD1601. From Bandcamp. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)
A young quartet from Glasgow, Square One‘s debut release In Motion quickly catches the attention with its imaginative compositional breadth, sparkling energy and nuanced elegance.
A collaboration arising from their time at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, guitarist Joe Williamson, pianist Peter Johnstone, bassist David Bowden and drummer/percussionist Stephen Henderson have already gained deserved recognition for their work, receiving 2015’s Peter Whittingham Jazz Award which provided the wherewithal to record this album. Citing The Impossible Gentlemen amongst influences, the band otherwise possesses its own, solid jazz identity infused with soul and rock; and the ensemble’s intelligent empathy and balance is redolent of, say, the Moutin Reunion Quartet (albeit with guitar, whose styling, in different moments, might easily evoke Mike Walker, Louis Stewart or Mike Stern).
Ten originals, across a full hour, combine melodic memorability with warmth of arrangement. Title track In Motion is a shining example, its propulsive groove inviting unfettered guitar and piano improvisations within a tight, percussive framework, sparking all manner of hues and refractions; and the homely, breezy openness of Full Circle paints blue-sky freedom, Peter Johnstone’s rhythmic and high piano embellishments melding crisply with Williamson’s clean tone. Brooding Eastern Ballad signals that this is a band which thrives on searching for the less obvious, eschewing the status quo with textural variance and spatial confidence; and Quicksand (in two parts) juxtaposes Mission Impossible-riff impetus and freewheeling bossa with unpredictable, smouldering progression and deliciously tremulant guitar.
Again, the apparently straightforward swing of 12 teases with swiftly-changing syncopations, all tightly engineered, whilst Crawler‘s dark, heavily-trodden grunge is fired by Williamson’s edgy, chordal invention, gyrating with Johnstone’s piano riffs and Henderson’s crackling drumming – ten minutes of episodic brilliance. Feel-good harmonic shifts in Light Up the Sky inspire beautiful melodies from Williamson, Johnstone and Bowden; and Ending Song‘s twilight limpidity, imbued with such sweet reverence, could easily welcome a poetic vocal line.
Square One deliver original jazz characterised by intelligent writing, illuminated by like-minded improvisation and interplay… and it feels likely that they have much more to reveal. In Motion must surely be their launch pad for a great future together.