Review: Dave Jones Quartet

The Dave Jones Quartet's back-to-basics approach and subtle Tyneresque touches impress Nigel Jarrett as the band promotes new album Keynotes

Pianist Dave Jones (pictured right) brought his quartet to Black Mountain Jazz at Abergavenny on 26 February for the first gig to promote its new album, Keynotes. It was a return, by Jones's standards, to what one might call mainstream tropes – that's not “mainstream” as in the mid-road fusion of swing and bop/post-bop, but the recognition that one phase of the music doesn't obliterate what's gone before.

On the leader's own admission it's a “back to basics” exercise. The new album's basics were reproduced afresh, with that unpredictable edge that comes from live performance and with the estimable Andy Tween a late dep for the album's Lloyd Haines at the drums. Everyone in the time-honoured format gets a look in on Jones's tersely titled compositions: Sand, Afro, Departures; and the eponymously obvious ones: Blues, Funky, and Latin.

The first thing to be said is that Jones, here playing a sometimes quivering Korg keyboard (the album has him at a Fazioli grand, fast becoming the instrument of choice among jazz pianists for whom the tone of Steinways and Bechsteins is too bright) nods in the direction of McCoy Tyner on Afro. That applies to his playing as well as his modal excursions, though with other pianistic touches of the two-handed variety added to the mix to make it less obviously Tyneresque.

Ben Waghorn's Gonsalves-like concatenation of choruses on the uptempo Blues was ever furrowing and ever inflammatory, while Ashley John Long's forages in the upper pitched reaches of the bass were akin to Scott LaFaro on hot coals. A live show, however, meant that we couldn't enjoy Long's overdubbed bass and vibraphone lines, which on the album add significant colour. Perhaps from the quartet together one might have liked something in slower or varied tempo, or ensemble playing in the development of tunes where no one player was under the follow-spot. But basics are basics. This is a band that does them well, knowing there's a routine to be followed, albeit one governed by the intention of giving everyone sufficient space to do what they have to do.

In the first set, troubadour Mansel Davies performed self-penned songs dealing with varying forms of heartache, accompanied by Emma Archer's obbligato-like cello and Paul Whyman's enhanced guitar backgrounds. The trio idea worked a treat, giving depth to Davies's utterances, all of Stateside provenance in terms of style and accent. Where The Young Lovers Go, Hey, Mama and Edge Of The World seem to be stories arising from personal experience. The words were invigorating and sometimes, as in the case of "I'll be ridiculous, you'll be sublime" from I Wait For You, a hoot.

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