Dewey Redman’s 1974 track ‘Qow’ provides the inspiration for this trio’s choice of name; the album features a reinterpretation of the tune as well as an original composition ‘Qowfirmation’ by the trio’s sax player Riley Stone-Lonergan. The majority of the album’s tunes are reworkings of jazz standards spanning far and wide across the genre’s history. The band share a passion for the trio work of Sonny Rollins but approach jazz from three distinct perspectives applying their own set of filters to give these familiar tunes a refreshingly contemporary twist.
The youngest member of the band is Riley Stone-Lonergan, an Irish player based in London with an interest in 60s free jazz. His other project: Family Band riff on the music of Dewey Redman, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and John Coltrane. He also finds time for another quartet with French pianist Fabrice Tavel with whom he has toured Europe.
At the other end of the age range is veteran drummer Spike Wells who cites early influences as Tony Williams and Philly Joe Jones, he went on to have a close association with Bobby Wellins and Tubby Hayes as well as playing live at Ronny Scott’s with the likes of Roland Kirk, Art Farmer, Stan Getz and James Moody.
Sandwiched between these two generations is bandleader and bassist Eddy Myer whose impressive facial hair will be familiar to fans of Turin Brakes’ live performances. Myer claims his long-standing interest in jazz was originally sparked by the chance discovery of a misfiled Thelonious Monk LP in the dub section of Notting Hill Record and Tape Exchange. His other jazz vehicle is the Brighton based Eddy Myer 5tet.
The album gets underway with a take on the Fred Loesser standard ‘Slow Boat to China’ only this boat isn’t slow, it’s pretty sharp and streamlined at least at the outset; it mellows somewhat in a sound reminiscent of Lester Young before gradually becoming freer and more exploratory again. There’s some delicious interplay between Myer’s bass and Stone-Lonergan’s sax while Wells finds an intricate pathway to hold them together.
There’s an urgency to the band’s rendition of Redman’s ‘Qow’ where Stone-Lonergan really comes into his own with an expressive aggression and passion, there are even a few growls of excitement from him. The band move away from the theme into more Avant-Garde territory sounding free and very much in the moment. Wells’ total involvement and incredible lightness of touch are also highly evident here.
Joe Henderson’s ‘Serenity’ offers a change of tone from Stone-Lonergan, it’s more influenced by the later sound of Henderson than the mid-60s era from which the tune originates; as it progresses there’s more tonal shift and Lonergan’s own voice emerges. There’s some tasty bass work from Myer but perhaps he’s just a little too quiet in the mix. I turned up the volume on my system to hear the details on this track.
Other highlights of the album are a version of Parker’s ‘Cheryl’, Stone-Lonergan riffs on the familiar theme before taking his improvisation somewhere else with the full register of his instrument, the power of Wells’ playing is also particularly evident here. On Billie Holiday’s ‘God Bless the Child’ there’s a change of pace and some understated passion especially in the interplay between Wells’ subtle vocabulary and the sax.
The playing is pretty sharp and agile on most of the nine tracks; one place I felt a dip in energy was on the overlong ‘Pound for Prez’. Overall though the album is an impressive afternoon’s work and offers a satisfying combination of tradition and innovation. Let’s hope they get the opportunity to get this music in front of a live audience in the not too distant future.