CD REVIEW: Shannon Barnett Quartet – Hype

Shannon Barnett Quartet – Hype
(Double Moon Records DMCHR71191. Review by Jon Carvell)

Australian trombonist Shannon Barnett’s formidable technique and fearless solos took her from Melbourne, via New York, to a seat in Cologne’s WDR Big Band, and since her arrival in 2014 she’s been immersed in the city’s flourishing jazz scene.

Barnett’s new quartet album Hype features Stefan Karl Schmid (tenor), David Helm (bass) and Fabian Arends (drums) – all three hotly-tipped emerging German jazzers. But does Hype live up to the, er, hype?

The album’s title track unfolds like a piece of clockwork and gears up to a heady lick, but gratifying as the quirky central hook is, it’s Barnett’s sense of line in the moment and her risk taking in improvisation that steal the show. She cascades through semiquavers and dispatches licks with her infectious confidence and no-nonsense tone.

The best moments come from these unfiltered phrases. As Lembing closes, Barnett circles the final riff with melodies that are carefully crafted yet naturally vocal, as if whistled carefree.

Over the insistent tonic pedal of Speaking in Tongues or deep in the glitchy reggae groove of Chasing the Second, Barnett is at once virtuosic, lyrical and bolshy. She inhabits the contrasting facets of the instrument, seemingly able to flit between the erudition of Nils Wogram, the charisma of Dennis Rollins or the class of Jack Teagarden.

Back in the engine room, Helm and Arends zig when you expect them to zag, and have a careful eye on energy levels, ready to take off at a moment’s notice. Schmid meanwhile shows himself to be no slouch on his daring forays into the Latin vibes of Ok Compupid or the edgy Red-Bellied Stickleback.

There is energy, musicality and humour in Shannon Barnett’s playing; I hope UK audiences are given the opportunity to hear her playing live.

LINK: Shannon Barnett interview/profile for International Women’s Day 2017

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