Colin Steele Quartet – Diving For Pearls
(Marina. MA82. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
You wait ten years for a Colin Steele record and then two come along – if not together, at least close together: hot on the heels of Steele’s quintet CD a couple of months ago comes this new quartet recording. This time, rather than Steele’s own tunes, the CD comprises solely of compositions by David Scott, for whose band, the Pearlfishers, Steele provided trumpet and flugelhorn on some CDs.
Steele’s affinity for the tunes is clear from the start. Playing muted trumpet, his lyricism is to the fore. His use of the mute creates an intimate record: quiet, but with a lot to say. His intense solos are considered and fluent, demanding attention as they stretch away from the original tunes.
The arrangements of Scott’s compositions by pianist Dave Milligan bring them close to Steele’s other recordings – as the sleeve notes say, the arrangements are very much in their own style. The result is a collection that brings to mind the style of Burt Bacharach, a composer Steele has lionised in his own compositions before, and an influence shared with Scott.
The rhythm section of Milligan, Calum Gourlay on bass and drummer Alyn Cosker provide an excellent accompaniment, giving Steele space in the quieter, more lyrical passages and a lively swing on the faster numbers. Cosker’s playing in exemplary in a small band setting, energetic and forceful but not at all overbearing. Calum Gourlay’s bass has a warm, emotional tone completely in keeping with the music.
Dave Milligan’s piano playing has an open, contemplative character, drawing one in deeper, particularly in the slower pieces. His solos build in intensity of controlled power. But it is Steele’s trumpet which is the focus of this record. Thoughtful, passionate, sometimes wistful, he plays with quiet confidence, his muted trumpet singing out the tunes.
The Colin Steele Quartet were playing the Rose Theatre, Edinburgh at 8pm on Monday 17 July as part of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. Colin Steele, Dave Milligan, Calum Gourlay and Alyn Cosker also feature in other ensembles during this year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival.