Thursday, March 12, 2015

John Bailey Quintet – “Black Ship Bright Sea” ASC Records

There is a certain fragility and romantic melancholy surrounding the sound of the flugelhorn in jazz. Place it within the context of rippling acoustic guitar and saxophone, and murmuring bass and drums, and the combination can be mesmerising. This is certainly the case with the John Bailey Quintet’s album release “Black Ship Bright Sea”. Featuring original material composed by guitarist John, the quintet features Richard Iles on flugelhorn, Tim France on saxophone, Gavin Barras on double bass and Steve Hanley on drums. Information on ASC records website reveals that,
“The compositional devices rely on crossing of melodies between instruments and simultaneous melodies instead of simple harmonized ones. Harmonically the movement of chords is not based particularly on a usual system seen in jazz composition; the techniques are more in line with those of Arvo Part, each note having absolute importance and all tones present for a reason.”
What this, rather eloquently, describes is the predominant feeling that these pieces are the product of both jazz and twentieth century classical music influences. “Strength in Numbers” is a sumptuous showcase for delicate nylon string guitar phrasing interwoven with brooding flugelhorn, whilst “Sfumato” draws heavily on modern classic ambience giving the music an altogether more enigmatic texture. There is, however, mischievousness to tunes such as “Positive Thinking” and “Flight Path” which illustrate the freedom of influences evident. “A Green Sun (I-IV)” features luxurious nylon string guitar playing, drawing in Eastern European, Spanish and classical dialects, emphasizing the poignancy that can be captured on this instrument within this framework. Fluently drawing all the moods evoked together in the final short piece “It’s A Strange World” underlines seamlessly the aesthetic at work on “ Black Ship Bright Sea”. Most certainly, music for the head and the heart.

As “Jazz Goes To Leeds” has claimed previously when discussing the work of John Bailey, the music here will obviously be of interest to anyone who has a fondness for the ECM/Rune Grammofon catalogue, with it’s brooding Scandinavian nature. This, however, may be far too simplistic a statement to make to fully understand the tracks that make up “Black Ship Bright Sea”. There is the melancholy and scholarly aspect to these pieces, but there is also a playfulness which sets it apart on its’ own to produce an album of both intellect and mischief.

John Bailey Website

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