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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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THE MONTEREY QUARTET

Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival

MJF Records 0888072312449

 

 


1. Treachery
2. Minotaur
3. Otra Mirada
4. Step To It
5. Maiden
6. 50
7. Veil Of Tears
8. Spoken Introduction
9. Ask Me Why

Dave Holland - Bass
Gonzalo Rubalcaba - Piano
Chris Potter - Tenor sax
Eric Harland - Drums

 

The all-star line-up on this new CD arouses great expectations. There's Dave Holland, the British bassist who made it big with Miles Davis and went on to lead his own groups. Gonzalo Rubalcaba is a virtuoso Cuban pianist who has played with everyone from Charlie Haden to Chick Corea, and Mike Brecker to Richard Galliano, as well as leading his own quartet and trio (the latter impressed me mightily when I saw it a few years ago). American saxist Chris Potter has played with all sorts of famous musicians and groups, including Red Rodney, John Patitucci, the Mingus Big Band and Steely Dan. And drummer Eric Harland has played with such varied artists as Betty Carter, Greg Osby, McCoy Tyner, Charles Lloyd and Zakir Hussain.

The idea of putting this quartet together came from the General Manager of Monterey Jazz Festival Records, Jason Olaine, but it took some years to come to fruition with two debut performances at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival, where this CD was recorded.

Paul de Barros's sleeve-notes says that all four players have "a penchant for rhythmic complexity (and the dexterity to deal with it)". This, for me, is one of the problems of the album. The musicians' technical ability is indubitable but the complexity of the tunes makes them very uninviting to the newcomer. Each of the musicians contributed two tunes to the album but very few of the tracks could be said to have memorable melodies or even structures that are accessible to the average listener. The crowd goes wild but I find it hard to share their enthusiasm.

One exception is Eric Harland's tune Maiden, a ballad which is surprisingly rhapsodic in Dave Holland's introduction and the solos from Potter and Rubalcaba. And Gonzalo's composition 50 (celebrating the Monterey Festival's 50th birthday) includes a glittering solo from the pianist.

Admittedly there are many fine passages elsewhere, particularly in the solos of Rubalcaba and Harland. However, Chris Potter's tenor sax can sound agonisingly tortured - often stretching uncomfortably high and approaching a screech. If you wanted to be brutally frank, you could describe much of his playing as "sub-Coltrane". Dave Holland's double bass provides brawny underpinning and he plays some strong solos on such tracks as his own composition Step To It.

So the verdict on this CD must be "a curate's egg" - i.e. good in parts. The parts are some of the solos - plus the group's technical expertise and its admirable interplay, but I find most of the convoluted compositions and Chris Potter's sax off-putting.

Tony Augarde



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