Saturday, 10 May 2008

Bryan Spring...

Spring has sprung, or at least it feels that way with the recent upturn in the weather, and with my mood in general. Just back from a hot and sweaty 3 hour single speed mtb ride, and although at one time I'd have used a day like today to get out on my road bike and do a few of the big hills, I'm not missing the tarmac.

Spring is also the surname of the drummer who led this recent British jazz release. Not widely known outside of the UK, Spring is an exciting presence whenever he plays. Hyperactive and not always tasteful, he's nevertheless well worth catching both live and on CD. I always like to annoy people by not giving total reverence to the slightly annoying Art Blakey, and the opening paragraph subtly veils those views - here Spring is playing in the service of the music, not his ego.

My next live music will be a gig by The Necks on Monday. Hopefully a review will follow here shortly afterwards...

The Spirit Of Spring
Trio Records (TR568)

Waltz For Zweetie; Equinox; M Squad; Detour Ahead; Round Midnight; Hymn; Aconite; The Opener; Wise One.

Mark Edwards (p); Andrew Cleyndert (b); Bryan Spring (d), (No recording date).

Rather like the irrepresible Art Blakey, British drummer Bryan Spring is a presence impossible to ignore in any ensemble in which he appears. Fellow musicians haven’t always appreciated his forthright contributions, but on this release he’s very much the musically generous bandleader. Cleyndert and Edwards make the most of their exposure in what is the kind of democratic trio that allows equal voice to its members.

Seasoned followers of Spring, no pun intended, won’t be surprised by his animation on the opener, a tricky Joe Henderson composition played in the manner of the Everybody Digs Bill Evans trio which boasted one of his heroes ‘Philly’ Joe Jones behind the traps. Pianist Edwards clearly enjoys the long flowing melodic lines of Evans too, and for much of the session this is the trio’s chosen terrain. Coltrane’s “Equinox” shows comfort within a relaxed but swinging mid-tempo groove, but the real surprise for me came in the extreme sensitivity and control of slower pieces such as Edwards’ delicate “Hymn”. Basie’s “M Squad” is playfully revamped, whilst “Round Midnight” survives the over familiarity test via a linear Powell-esque interpretation - radical, though stopping well short of the drag-strip treatment Charles Tolliver gave the piece on his 1973 Music Inc. classic Live In Tokyo.

Sound quality is pristine, capturing every detail, and if there’s any quibble at all then it’s with the sequencing of the material. To my ears there’s something of a flatspot at mid-point. Both “Hymn” and “Aconite” have an almost zenlike calm, and the transition to Evans’ uptempo “The Opener” brutally disrupts the mood. The piece is followed by a tender reading of “Wise One” which closes. Out of sheer perversity alone “The Opener” would have been a great way to sign off, and to my ears the music would have then been in better balance. Ultimately such reservations seem churlish. It’s not just good to hear Spring in the studio again, but this trio have delivered something of real quality to withstand repeated listening. Warmly recommended.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, November 2005)

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