Dipping into the BeBop Club on Friday just as the quartet had kicked off, I caught a little fizz of excitement as tenor man Greg Sterland dug into Blues for Philly Joe over a pulsating swinging groove. Pasquale Votino on bass and Paolo Adamo have been ubiquitous around Bristol of late, a first call rhythm section and that moment captured why. The energy and propulsive momentum was palpable. Sterland is an adventurous and fluent improviser. Even on the blues, familiar phrases were twisted and pulled into long lines, occasional gutteral cries and rasps adding colour. And then a change of pace and a moody Kenny Kirkland piece brought a more smoky, brooding sound from Sterland and Daan Temmink his co-leader on keys, spun rhapsodic and lyrical flurries over Kirkland’s distinctive angular harmony. All was set fair for an absorbing and exciting evening’s music. Bird Food ramped the energy levels further still, Sterland pulling out another, twisting, volcanic solo. Paolo Adamo was all ears on drums seeming to anticipate and catch every rhythmic swerve. A lovely Temmink original followed, Song for Helen. If we didn’t already know that he plies his trade as a composer for film and TV, someone might have been tempted to commission him on the strength of that one. Sterland’s Nothing Serious was a ghostly latin number, making the most of the simplest of motifs and breathy tenor, wheezing and fluttering. It inspired an incandescent solo from Temmink, all glittering runs and sinuous melodic lines. A second set saw more originals, a wonky Coltrane tribute by Votino, Dear John. If Coltrane didn’t write in 5/4 maybe he should have done; another Temmink original, Dragonfly all dance and skitter then a gorgeous reading of Monk’s Reflections to finish, Sterland growling, rasping and fluttering again around the melody, in between the perfectly crafted swoops of the melody.
I’m not sure if this is a regular band, but the busy, collaborative, Bristol scene mean these players know each other well and it showed in this performance. A evening that delivered all the promise of that first tune.