Album reviews

Brian Molley Quartet – ‘Modern Traditions’

Brian Molley Quartet – Modern Traditions

(BGMM Records BGMM 003, available from BandCamp. Album Review by Patrick Hadfield)

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Brian Molley‘s new release does exactly what it says on the label: the Glasgow-based saxophonist and composer has produced a collection of modern jazz that feels exactly as if it fits in the tradition. It is at once stimulating and yet comforting. The mix of original pieces and not-so-standards feels both comfortingly familiar and brand new.

Molley’s quartet – Tom Gibbs on piano, Brodie Jarvie on bass and Stuart Brown on drums – play with an energy and vibrancy, but allow space for the music’s subtlety to shine through. There is a firm assurance from the band as a whole – they’re a very safe set of hands.

Led by his young daughter’s taste, and perhaps an enforced over-familiarity with the music, Molley has included his arrangement of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes from Disney’s Cinderella. Molley’s saxophone is full of romantic lyricism, slightly breathy; his solo has warmth and depth.

The other non-original is The Trolley Song, made famous by Judy Garland in Meet Me In St Louis. Molley double-tracks a series of woodwind instruments for the introduction; the band play the main body of the tune with a lively and enjoyable bounce. Brown has a particularly light touch.

Two of Molley’s originals are rooted in earlier generations of musicians. Bletchley takes its inspiration from Wynton and Branford Marsalis, and in particular Wynton’s album Black Codes (From The Underground), which also prompts the title Bletchley. This is a lively, driving piece of modern post-bop, taken at quite a pace, and serves as the foundation for an excellent solo from Gibbs.

A more elegaic tone is presented by Sinkapace for Mary and Philip, an imaginary first dance for the ill-fated marriage of Queen Mary I of England and King Phillip II of Spain. Perhaps an unusual subject for a piece of jazz, this is a slow waltz – “sinkapace” was a form of galliard – and is full of pathos and melancholy, with lovely, measured performances all round.
Sarah Said is dedicated to Sarah Vaughan. With a slight Latin tinge to the rhythm, this is another piece firmly rooted in bop, and it brings the album to a fitting close – with links to past traditions but resolutely now, too.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield

LINK: Modern Traditions on Bandcamp / Release date 3 December 2021

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