Album Review: Steve Fishwick/Alex Garnett Quartet – Marshian Time Slip

Steve Fishwick/Alex Garnett Quartet

Marshian Time Slip

(Hard Bop Records HBR33011)

 

This project has been long in the gestation; some 15 years ago brothers Steve and Matt Fishwick and Alex Garnett were neighbours in Maida Vale, and used to rehearse together, exploring their mutual love of the hard bop tradition. The chordless format was adopted on an expedient basis, as their rehearsal room had no piano, but the participants found it so appealing that they’ve retained it for the present recording, with the band completed by the New Yorker Michael Karn who has previously partnered with Fishwick in his UK/US Sextet. There’s an obvious (and explicitly stated) link to the Ernie Henry/Kenny Dorham pianoless quartet that featured on Henry’s final recording before his untimely death in 1957, and to the chordless bop of Sonny Rollins; the themes, all original compositions by the leaders, deploy the traditional bop vocabulary of hot licks interwoven with hits and breaks in the best Silver tradition, followed by plenty of burning solos over impeccably swinging grooves. The standard blowing vehicles are addressed – Wrath Of Karn is a heavily altered blues – Marshian Time Slip is a Warne Marsh-inspired contrafact on All The Things – Rhythm Changes workout Lickeroo has a punning dedication to its twin inspirations Ray Noble and Charlie Parker, and elsewhere Rio De Ron fulfils the Latin quota, 52nd Street Dream is a muscular ballad, and Creep is a vehicle for swaggering downtempo bluesy exploration. However the absence of a piano, and Garnett’s choice of alto sax over his usual tenor, inevitably conjures up the more forward (or wayward) spirit of Ornette Coleman – the wailing introduction to the alto solo on the title track, and the frantic figures on Kaftan, sound distinctly Colemanesqe, the altered blues harmony on The Wrath Of Karn walks a line between dissonance and freedom, and Michael Karn’s rock-solid bass fills out the space with beautifully logical counterpoints worthy of Charlie Haden. Fishwick S is his usual virtuosic self, matching poise and pace with a full, rounded tone and distilling the voice of the bop masters into his own special brew – Fishwick M is the exemplar of taste and swing – Karn is allocated generous solo space and rises to every occasion; the entire band rise to the challenges and possibilities of the pianoless format to create a recording that combines the flawless execution you’d expect from these players with an additional sense of freedom and excitement. The issue of a heavyweight vinyl with authentically retro cover design makes this package all the more appealing for lovers of echt jazz everywhere – marketing departments take note. 

 

Eddie Myer

Steve Fishwick, trumpet & flugelhorn; Alex Garnett, alto sax; Michael Karn, bass; Matt Fishwick, drums.