1 December 2019

Album Review: BATL Quartet – BATL Quartet Live

BATL Quartet

BATL Quartet Live

Transplanted Perth-to-London tenor man Brandon Allen is a well respected fixture on the UK scene, sharing with Paul Booth the enviable position of being first-call session player for a host of big names while still preserving an unimpeachable name as an echt practitioner of modern jazz. This album will only enhance the latter reputation, capturing his full tone and powerfully confident delivery as co-leader with the similarly well-rounded Tim Lapthorn and a superbly compatible rhythm team in a set of live club performances. All the compositions are by the leaders, exploring different areas of the contemporary mainstream: Gone But Not Forgotten is a propulsive modal flavoured swinger that’s a perfect showcase for Allen’s big blustery tone and urgent phrasing, while the rollicking Lazy Day deploys the values of an earlier swing era as a perfect backdrop for his channelling of the bluesey swagger of players like Gene Ammons, though Allen’s not afraid to liven things up further, dropping in blistering semiquaver runs and gestural blurts and smears among the blues and bop licks. Lapthorn is an eminently suitable partner, drawing from a similar well of classic jazz piano influences but equally capable of spicing things up with some sudden darker harmonic excursions, supported by an equally comprehensive technique that never tips into extraneous showmanship. His own compositions show an equally comprehensive approach; Return To Life has a neatly plotted contemporary sounding rhythm arrangement that provides the launchpad for a wide-ranging, rhythmically virtuosic solo, while the ballad feature Cuckoo has echoes of Ellington. The live format allows plenty of space for everyone to stretch out in front of the appreciative audience: the deeply musical support pairing of Somogyi and Haines keep things swinging powerfully along, with Somogyi contributing some excellent solos and Haines raising the temperature when required with his high-explosive bombs. The high intensity latin flavoured Running Away With Me is an energetic highlight, and Frack The Right sounds suitably angry: but the quality is so consistent that it’s hard to pick a favourite; Allen’s big sound is a constant delight, and the engagement of the whole band carries the day.

Eddie Myer

Brandon Allen, saxophone; Tim Lapthorn, piano; Arnie Somogyi; bass; Lloyd Haines, drums.

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