The Glasgow jazz scene does not receive its full due from the rest of the United Kingdom in spite of an internationally recognised jazz festival that has annually welcomed the very finest. However, in tenorist and multi-reedist, Brian Molley, it has unquestionably unearthed a prodigious talent whose skills in composition and open-minded approach to incorporating other world roots rhythms into his music set him apart from the rest.
This is in fact Molley’s second album on his label and features his regular quartet including Brazilian guitarist and bassist Mario Caribé. It is, however, the music of the Indian sub-continent rather than that of Latin America that most informs his music outside of modern jazz with Monk, hard and post-bop all featuring, and, interestingly, the sound of ECM being gently weaved into a distinctive voice. On the driving ‘Lexington 101’ there are shades of early 1960s Johnny Griffin on Riverside, but that contrasts with the sparse sound and sedate pace generated on ‘The Pushkar Push’, which is far more akin to ECM in tone. What really impresses is the natural flow of the music with nothing rushed and no need to overly impress with technical challenges on the instrumentation, a lesson that other young jazz musicians would do well to heed.
A modal bass line from double bassist Caribé leads into a subtly flavoured slice of acoustic Indo-Jazz fusion on ‘Saanj in the Blue City’, and the leader enters into a relaxed excursion here. While some might have expected, ‘A Borboleta’, to be a homage of sorts to the 1974 Santana album with a strong Brazilian input, it is in fact a tribute to the Brazilian folk choro genre and a fine one at that, with Molley here reverting to flute and sounding not dissimilar to Hermeto Pascoal on a breeze of a tune that is an album highlight. New Orleans grooves with a Monk-esque piano riff from Tom Gibbs offer some further variety on ‘Picayune Slinky’, with Molley on soprano saxophone. Scandinavian oriented folk-jazz is not altogether surprising given the proximity to Scotland and the parallel landscape with the Highlands at least, and perhaps subconsciously, this has seeped into the music on the lovely ‘Jacksonville’, with a repeated bass motif.
Standing apart from the rest and placed chronologically towards the very end of the album are three standards and none are treated as one might expect and have carefully thought through and imbued with an individual touch. Who would have expected Duke Ellington’s ‘Solitude’ to be performed with overdubbed horns including bass clarinet and as a solo vehicle for Mollery’s mastery of the horns, this is something out of the ordinary that works a treat. The Bricusse/Newley number, ‘Cheer up Charlie’, is performed as a straight ballad, but as a duet between piano and tenor and so compelling is the reading that a future duet album, or at the very least several examples of the duet format, should be seriously considered for a one-off future project. Indeed, such is the quiet assurance of the group as a whole that this album veers off in several directions that can be usefully followed up on and explored in greater depth on future recordings. A most promising album and one that some of the majors should be listening to. Watch out for a a forthcoming blog from the musician, introducing us to his musical influences, experiences and collaborations.