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

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New Focus

Whirlwind Recordings
WR 4629



1. Nicola's Piece
2. Intro
3. El Paraiso
4. For Ray
5. Interlude
6. Music for a Northern Mining Town
7. Illuminate
8. Dziadzio
9. Leonard's Lament
10. Parsons Green

Konrad Wiszniewski - Tenor sax, soprano sax
Euan Stevenson - Piano
Michael Janisch - Bass
Alyn Cosker - Drums
The Glasgow String Quartet:
William Chandler - Violin 1
Jacqueline Speirs - Violin 2
Ian Budd - Viola
Betsy Taylor - Cello
Alina Bzhezhinska - Harp


Jazz musicians playing with strings were rather frowned upon in my jazz-listening youth until Stan Getz's magnificent Focus with Eddie Sauter in the mid-60s. Since then, a number of very fine `jazz and strings' recordings have been made and, more recently, the use of a small string unit, as on this CD, has produced some fascinating music.

The CD's sleeve gives minimal information but a trawl on the web reveals that Konrad Wiszniewski, far from being a fugitive from ECM as the name implies, studied music at Strathclyde University and is a regular member of the acclaimed Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO). Euan Stevenson, also Scottish-based, leads a regular working trio and is the arranger of the music (all original, I assume) on this CD. Alyn Cosker is well-established on the Scottish jazz scene and drummer with the SNJO, which leaves the American-born, London-based Michael Janisch as the only `outsider' in the jazz quartet.

The Glasgow String Quartet makes an immediate impact, laying down a striking accompaniment for Wiszniewski's eloquent tenor and Stevenson's incisive piano-playing on the insistently attractive Nicola's Piece. Delicately-plucked strings introduce El Paraiso setting up a catchy, danceable rhythm for Wiszniewski's fluent tenor solo. For Ray has a wistful quality and there's a keening edge to Wiszniewski's emotional solo.

Intro and Interlude are pauses for bass and harp respectively. The underused harpist Alina Bzhezhinskais not heard on every track but she contributes to the sixth track (one wonders which mining town is the subject) and introduces the final track.

Illuminate has a catchy, insistent beat and Dziadzio (another mysterious title) is a thoughtful ballad with Wiszniewski sounding especially Brecker-ish as he floats over the strings.

Leonard's Lament is an opportunity for Wiszniewski to show his skills on soprano sax and, finally, Parsons Green (unless I'm mistaken, there is only one and it's not in Scotland!) has Alina handing over to a rocking piano/string rhythm leading to further eloquent solos by the leaders and some driving percussion by the excellent Cosker.

This is an outstanding CD - I thoroughly enjoyed every precious minute (46 by my count).

George Stacy

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