A fat but delicate tenor sound; phrases that seem to slide over the contours of the artfully constructed harmonies and float across crisps rythmns without losing contact; an almost diffident delivery at times, with angular lines hinting at a very contemporary bop, thrown out across the full range of the tenor’s sound whisperingly quiet at times, the casual delivery belying the technical control needed. This was the first time I’d seen Trish Clowes play and I can see what the fuss is about (Jazz UK’s latest edition sums up the buzz here). Technical brilliance aside, what counts for me is an emotional connection and it’s that sound and delivery that’s staying with me and making we want to go and listen again.
On this particular evening I wondered if that connection seemed to come and go for the band as a whole. The compositions were intriguing multi-layered pieces that fitted together like a jigsaw. A few of them were written for a much larger ensemble and occasionally seemed a challenge in the quartet format. But when they relaxed and opened out there really is a bit of magic here that’s out of the ordinary. On/ Off immediately caught everyone’s attention to start the evening with staccato rhythms and interlocking phrases. Atlas, with a racing pulse and attractive ascending lines that changed gear in unexpected ways nudged the players in interesting directions and evoked gripping and fluent soloing. A duo version of Autumn in New York (with a big bow in the direction of American Joe Lovano’s influence) was breathtaking. This was music that promised to reveal even more on a second listen and there’ll be plenty more opportunities to hear Trish Clowes’ music both as player and composer based on this showing.