Nigel Thomas Quartet: Hidden
Nigel Thomas, bass
Paul Booth, saxophones, bass clarinet, flute
Mark Edwards, piano and keyboards
Winston Clifford, drums.
South Coast bassist and composer Nigel Thomas makes a welcome return with this excellent album following up his 2011 release, Yoichi. The re-appearance of two of the pivotal members of the Yoichi team, Winston Clifford and Mark Edwards, indicate the strength of the musical bonds that have survived the lengthy hiatus, and the rhythm section coalesce beautifully around Thomas’ sure-footed bass playing, mixed front and centre in this clear, crisp recording from James McMillan.
The title track has the declamatory quality of some of McCoy Tyner’s work from the 1970s, with some tricky rhythmic shifts pointing up the quality of Thomas’ writing. Another World is a spacious ballad with a sensitive reading by Paul Booth; What The Butler Saw has a faintly vaudevillian tinge to it’s melody before spinning off into a burning hard-boppish exploration, with plenty of room for Booth to show off his impressive chops, and Thomas to cut loose with a swinging, melodically satisfying solo. Dark Light uses Fender Rhodes and double-tracked woodwinds to create a lush soundscape. The self-deprecatingly titled Cliche is a highlight, a late-night, smoky-sounding ballad that allows Thomas to demonstrate that his virtuosity isn’t an end in itself – it’s a difficult task to conjure emotional expressiveness from his unwieldy instrument, but he manages it, and Seeker Of The Light contains a similarly charged statement, reaching effortlessly up into the high register, and launching Edwards off into a riveting solo.
The entire band are top-flight musicians, with Booth in particular surely vying for the title of one of the UK’s most versatile and technically accomplished players, but the over-riding impression isn’t of a flashy chops-fest, but rather of a deep sincerity, implicit in the writing and brought out by the evident quality of mutual trust and respect between the players. The whole record projects an engaging warmth that’s not always easy to find in contemporary jazz, speaking of a lifetime’s unselfish devotion to the music, and shouldn’t remain hidden from the audience it deserves.