CD review

BATL Quartet – LIVE

BATL Quartet – LIVE
(RT Jazz Records RTJR002 – CD review by Mark McKergow)

BATL Quartet – led by tenorist Brandon Allen and pianist Tim Lapthorn – hits the groove and the airways with this debut CD recorded live at London’s Pizza Express club in March 2019. These eight originals come to life with rock-solid and exciting performances capturing the essence of the classic jazz quartet at its finest.

Aussie-born Allen and Brit Lapthorn are old colleagues and sparring partners, but this band is a new vehicle which lets them focus on their original compositions. The line-up is completed by Arnie Somogyi on double bass, surely one of the UK’s finest talents, and Welsh-born rising drum star Lloyd Haines. This band is clearly well ahead in the ability stakes – but what about the compositions and recording?

I am delighted to say that this is one of those occasions where everything aligns to produce top-class music. As Allen observes live recordings are never predictable, but the efforts of Pizza Express in-house sound engineer Luc Saint Martin pay off handsomely here. The band sounds full of energy and the live setting (meaning one take only!) clearly acts as a spur to the playing. Allen in particular uses his legendary range to the full, heading for the stratosphere in the altissimo register with skill and the occasional yelp of self-encouragement.

The eight tunes are a good and coherent selection. Allen gets the lion’s share with six compositions including the opening Gone But Not Forgotten, a lithe and swinging hard bopper which sees the back line of Somogyi and Haines urging the soloists on with fine style. Lazy Day has, paradoxically, somewhat of a march feel with snare drums to the fore and a very enjoyable extended solo from Tim Lapthorn extending out from the original centres, to the audible appreciation of the audience.

Lapthorn’s two tunes here are Return To Life, underpinned by a shifting riffing backing and featuring another sparkling solo from him, and Cuckoo, a ballad which allows Arnie Somogyi’s double bass work to be heard to good effect throughout. Another highlight is Theodore, a beautiful rolling tune dedicated by Allen to his new five-month old son which gives the soloists space to relaxedly explore the theme. Frack The Right, the closing number, builds excitingly over 14 minutes towards a thrilling climax with Haines driving the band forward as Allen goes the full Coltrane, quotes from A Love Supreme and all.

BATL Quartet is touring extensively through the rest of 2019, and intends to record a studio album in 2020 covering more of their original material.  This band is well worth a detour to check out – as Samuel Johnson might have said, “Worth seeing and definitely worth going to see!”.

LINK: Find out more and hear the music on the band’s webpage

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