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Monday, July 1, 2013

The Convergence Quartet - Slow And Steady (No Business, 2013) *****

By Stef

"Assemble/Melancholy", the first track, does just that. Four instruments have bits and pieces to say, somewhat fragmentary, with already some ingredients of storytelling, and gradually a kind of boppish rhythm emerges, and so the four instruments start getting aligned in the same direction, somewhat melancholy.

The joy is offered to you by Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Alexander Hawkins on piano, Dominic Lash on bass and Harris Eisenstadt on drums, four stellar musicians who've been playing together for a number of years now. And the music on this album is sheer joy, offering the listener shifting perspectives on music and its basic material - sound - to create some form of coherence (convergence?) that in its extremes range from Keith Jarrett to Anthony Braxton and beyond, from melodic lyricism to abstract free improvisation.

Simon H. Fell captures it well in the liner notes of the quartet's first CD, "Live In Oxford" : "The several compositional strategies seem to range from the inscrutable to being perhaps too easily scrutable, and the resulting music includes moments of the sublime, the awkward and the deeply puzzling. At the end of the record, you may even be tempted to ask yourself ‘what was that all about?’" True, this recipe is not new, but the quartet applies it to perfection, playing with the compositions, tossing them around, slowing down rhythms, accelerating, adding shades and seemingly losing threads while at the same time keeping a good ear to the total sound and the direction it all takes.

I will not review each track, but the variety and wealth of material you get is absolutely phenomenal, with twists and turns, from slow to fast-paced moments, rhythmic intricacies and great adventurous escapades. And it sounds great, and rich.

The title piece "Slow And Steady" is an Eisenstadt composition with one of the most beautiful themes I've heard in a while - it also features on "Canada Day III" - with odd-metered accompaniment of the rhythm section. A great and sad closing for a fantastic album, one that you will want to listen to many times, as I've been doing for the past month.

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Kenny said...

Easily, one of the best of a tremendous lot of 2013 releases.

Unknown said...

Agree with Kenny, this is fantastic, and it brings to mind Braxton's classic quartet, albeit with different instrumental line up. I say this because of the range of approaches they use, as Stef referenced.

Martin Schray said...

The 14 minutes of "Third Convergence" alone would suffice to buy this album. If Miles had his 1960s quintet today they might sound like them. To die for, truly 5 stars.

joesh said...

Oh no, not another record we have to buy, just at the moment when I was hoping to go on holiday!

I guess this will be an end of summer holiday treat, thanks for tip guys. By the way I imagine its only on CD (no LP this time)?

I should add that if you all enjoy this one then look out for Gianni Lenoci Hocus Pocus 4 (feat. Taylor Ho Bynum), a very fine album in the same area musically. Review coming up in the next days!

emelt said...

I typically agree with your reviews but I've listened to this three times now and wouldn't be able to give it more than *** 1/2. The playing is great as well as the Eisenstadt compositions but the Lash tunes are ho-hum.