Album review

Trish Clowes – ‘A View with a Room’

Trish Clowes – A View with a Room

(Greenleaf GRE-CD-1094. Album review by Jon Turney)

Jazz ensembles at two ends of a spectrum can both yield a kind of freedom. At one, there’s the first meeting between players who put one another on their mettle, but are skilled enough to relax and enjoy the ride. The other: a long-running group of musicians who know each other’s capabilities so deeply it gives them a different kind of confidence to take chances.

The new outing from Trish Clowes’ quartet (AKA My Iris, in lasting tribute to her grandmother) is solidly in the second category. Two of the ever-impressive foursome, guitarist Chris Montague and drummer James Maddren, featured on her first release as leader, Tangent in 2010. Ross Stanley on keyboards joined them five years ago for the first My Iris CD and has been a fixture since.

Their rich acquaintance encourages venturesome writing as well as brilliantly supportive playing. Clowes – who supplies all the compositions – knows these players will build generously on a hint of a mood or engage immediately with a small suggestion for a change of musical direction. Her writing, nicely varied within as well as between these eight pieces, exploits all three to great effect, as well as giving plenty of space for her serpentine saxophone lines, highlighted at times by a more assertive timbre than a decade ago.

This band can rock along together or move smoothly into impressionistic or elegiac duos or trios. The absence of a bass player often yields an open, uncluttered sound. That suits compositions that are free of bombast, or of striving for effect. This is consistently well-crafted music, and the band respond in kind. Guitar and piano produce solos that grow out of the settings, and never seem confined by them, Clowes is inspired as well as inspiring, and Maddren faultlessly judged throughout.

His urging on of all three soloists on No Idea underlines why he such a sought-after drummer. Stanley is engagingly Jarrettish on the elegiac Time. Morning Song maintains an appealing langour and has one of the leader’s most beautifully weighted solos. The closer Ayana begins ethereally and builds slowly to a rousing finish, with Clowes multi-tracked on intertwining tenor and soprano horns and hammond organ thickening the texture. Like the other four pieces, these all provide just enough compositional information to cue the players into taking the music where she (or they) want.

Fresh talent comes along in such profusion nowadays it’s easy for the promising newcomers of a decade ago to slip out of the spotlight. No danger of that here. The creative staying power of these four is beyond doubt, and this recording shows their leader continuing to build an enduring body of work.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. Twitter: https://twitter.com/jonWturney

LINK: Feature about A View With a Room by John Bungey

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