Geoff Mason Quartet – GMQ (GM Records. CD review by Peter Vacher)
Self-produced, with the CD in an open card sleeve and minus notes, this might easily be mistaken for a typical pick-up souvenir, ideal for happy punters to buy at the end of the gig. That is until you look at the repertoire, its seven tracks leavened by pieces composed by Coltrane, Monk and Hancock. So, no easy options there, no happy sing-alongs in the car for the journey home, you might say. This is altogether more serious than that, each piece testing trombonist Mason’s technique to the limit, not only in manoeuvring his often-intransigent instrument around these tricky themes, some at uppish tempos, but also in coping with the harmonic challenges inherent in them when embarking on his solo improvisations.
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In helping him to meet these challenges, Mason had the good sense to assemble a star trio to complement his endeavours, headed by that most creative of pianists, John Horler, and aided by the excellent Adam King on bass and Winston Clifford on drums. Mason’s is a dry sound, the effect largely monochromatic and, in eschewing anything approximating to a slow ballad, he has largely sacrificed the trombone’s capacity for tonal variety in order to achieve rapid action and agility. Don’t look here for the sonic richness of a JJ Johnson or even a Frank Rosolino, nor more locally, that of Alistair White or Mark Nightingale. No, this is essentially a Masonic calling card for his own technical prowess and extemporising style.
Horler is simply magnificent throughout. Mason having dealt, say, with the jigsaw outlines of Coltrane’s 26-2, Horler follows with a solo of startling freshness, spacious and marked by delicious runs before Mason re-enters, anxious to leave no chord change unturned. The same goes for Monk’s Trinkle Tinkle and Well, You Needn’t, Mason never shirking the task in hand, as Horler and company add their own brilliant commentaries and solo incursions. Unrelenting at times, but undeniably fruitful as a trombone showcase, I might have liked to hear Mason take his time on a standard or to observe his responses to a slow blues.
Purchase the CD from Mason direct at email@example.com or download from iTunes and Spotify.
LINK: Geoff Mason’s website
Categories: CD reviews