New Generation Jazz: Quinn Oulton
The Verdict, Brighton
Friday 29th November 2019
Multi-instrumentalist, singer, teacher and composer Quinn Oulton was the latest in a long line of young band leaders to showcase their talents during this year’s New Generation Jazz series at Brighton’s Verdict Jazz Club. Fresh from a successful gig at Kansas Smitty’s during the recent EFG London Jazz Festival and planning a second recording to be released early in 2020, Quinn and his power packed ensemble are a band very much on a steep upward curve in today’s UK music scene. Having taken up the alto saxophone at the age of eight, before graduating to the tenor “when I was tall enough” he demonstrated right from the off that he had firmly mastered the instrument and developed his own sound on it, whilst at the same time being unafraid to glance back to some of the masters of yesteryear. The opener, Caught Up, from Quinn’s first release had the leader very much in a Coltrane mode, with an engaging full sound that was both melodic and searching, played over rolling drum figures from Luca Caruso who himself was magnificent throughout in a style somewhere between Elvin Jones and Tony Williams. He switched from tenor to vocals and we soon heard what a great voice he has for both jazz and today’s contemporary music. Quinn sings both straight ahead and also uses distortion electronics just enough to make things interesting. This is a band that is not afraid to stretch out in live performance, and so it proved as this first sequence of some twenty five minutes contained the album track, before segueing into a new piece, where the saxophone sound was at times far more edgy, aggressive and driving in the style formerly associated with ‘Texan’ giants such as Illnois Jacquet. It also included a stunning percussive piano interlude from Rupert Cox, whose use of time and space helped build the layers of tension and release so vital in the production of great jazz. Part one of the night’s entertainment contained only one other piece, the lengthy and intriguing Eye Glass, another original from the leader who composes the whole of the band’s repertoire. Here we had the front man vocalising, plus playing tenor and guitar on a composition that built steadily in both tempo and volume before culminating in a raging pyrotechnic guitar solo from the enigmatic Peter Wilson, over strong electric bass lines from Will Sach plus more fireworks from behind the drum kit.
After fifty minutes of first-class jazz fusion, the enthusiastic Verdict audience could only anticipate what would occur after the break. It had to be acknowledged that this group of musicians are able to perform well over a number of genres, some members of the music press label them as an ‘indie’ band and others describe them as ‘alternative’. All that really matters is that all five are fine versatile musicians who entertain at a very high level. It was no surprise to some that the early part of the second half was taken up with previews of mainly guitar-based tracks to be released on singles and an EP in the new year. Little Bit Crazy, Let It Out and Bite The Bullet all contained overtones of jazz and were well received by the crowd, but clearly aimed at a slightly different fan base. It was back to more familiar sounds as another superb unaccompanied tenor solo led into a lengthy unannounced piece that included excellent keyboard electronics, outstanding bass runs and more frenzied drumming. This one brought the house down, but it was only a prelude to the spectacular closer Fender Bender from Quinn’s debut album. This is a wild jazz rock piece with staccato-like saxophone, duelling guitars and an all out two-handed attack from the electric bass man. It was a fitting finale to yet another great New Generation Jazz night from a collection of young talented players with an assured future ahead of them.
(Photo by Anya Arnold)