Jake McMurchie Quartet, Hen and Chicken, Sunday 23rd April

Once I had a Secret Love.  Is it too whimsical to connect the title of a Jake McMurchie JakeMcM_H&Chfavourite to his now 30 year association with the sax? The thought popped into my head as he unfurled, unaccompanied, a viscerally grooving take on the Doris Day theme, artful phrasing, space and a stabbing little phrase upping the momentum as the rest of the quartet joined in.  We didn’t really need any reminding of what a musical and inventive player Jake is, the solo that followed rammed it home nevertheless.

The love affair with the sax can’t have stayed secret for long once he started gigging and there were plenty of people who knew how good he was by the time Get The Blessing won the BBC awards in 2008 and the late Jack Massarik was asking ‘where’s he been?’  Sunday night’s gig had the feel of a reflective retrospective. The repertoire dipped into  favourites from the past. Monk’s I Mean You, and the standard Paper Moon each got an outing. There were different vibes; a bit of the GTB back catalogue got an airing, Nick Drake’s  Know was a mesmerizing opener, a vintage McMurchie tune Oranges and Melons was all delicate lyricism and plaintive soprano swoops following by a more bristling, darker brand new one, as yet untitled.

The recently minted quartet gave the music the energy and emotional charge it warranted.  Riaan Vosloo on bass was a taut, propulsive force throughout, on occasion looping a riff until the intensity reached fever pitch. Matt Brown behind the kit never overpowered the sound but lit fires under the band throughout the gig, sometimes  stoking the momentum relentlessly, at others laying down a trance like pulse or when the occasion demanded, swinging like mad.  Dan Waldman’s guitar provided the perfect harmonic and melodic foil to the sax, finding by turns singing lines and then angular and divergent paths through the tunes.

If the retrospective drew on plenty of back catalogue,  it sounded fresh and dynamic in the hands of this band.  Lets hope there is plenty more to come from them.