Tom Millar Quartet – Unnatural Events
(SPARK004. CD review by Mike Collins)
Tom Millar’s debut album Unnatural Events is a calling card for a fluent, inventive pianist and composer of attractive and layered, small band contemporary jazz.
Millar is joined on the recording by the driving partnership of Misha Mullov-Abbado on bass and Mike Clowes on drums. The crystalline sound of Alex Munk’s guitar provides another dimension and the atmospheric vocals of Alice Zawadzki add to two tracks.
Azura Days sets off at a gallop with piano and guitar doubling a mazy theme and the rhythm section dropping into a propulsive, off kilter samba like groove. The Seafarer starts with a bass solo that plays with space as much as with flurries of notes, then a melody reels out over a loose, clattering rhythm section before a rocking groove emerges. Power Chord Thing honours its title, then Choro a gently lilting bossa like piece, embellished by word-less vocals, eases the tension. Inversnaid, a setting of the Manly-Hopkins poem, develops over an urgent, choppy rhythm with sliding harmony and snaking melodic lines. Woad is built around another pulsating groove with interlocking riffs. Park Hill is a lyrical, gently rocking ballad to close the set.
It’s a varied set with a distinct feel, dipping into more muscular rocky vibes as well as visiting latin tinged feels. The rich harmony and melodies provide plenty of material to explore in solos. After a scintillating bass solo on Woad, Millar stretches out and unreels glittering runs, showing he can build exciting solos. He injects drama into Seafarer and delicacy into Choro. On the title track, he makes the most of the rolling rhythmic feel, sketching phrases that develop and coalesce, ramping up the energy. Alex Munk’s playing adds colour and interest throughout. He has an instinct for snappy fragments that catch the ear, are repeated and launch into flowing lines.
This is an enjoyable debut with fine playing all round.