Posts Tagged ‘Compass Quartet’

With the great number of projects saxophonist and composer Jeremy Rose involves himself with, one could fairly expect his output to be prolific yet patchy. As one who follows Rose’s trajectory and music, I am still waiting to hear any hint of a lapse in quality and vision.

Rose’s most recent release under his own name – rather than with the Vampires, the Strides, the Earshift Orchestra or any of his many other collaborations – is Within & Without. Recorded in Germany and featuring US super-guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, the 10-song album holds up Rose’s impeccable standards without at all veering from his unique creative path.

Rose Within & Without2For an album concerned with themes of “opposing forces of attraction and repulsion, joy and anguish, hope and despair, pain and ecstacy” the music is beautifully cohesive and complete­­. The players – Rose and Rosenwinkel together with German bassist Andreas Lang and drummer Tobias Backhaus, as well as Rose’s long time piano foil, Australian Jackson Harrison – mesh exqusitiely, almost telepathically at times. Rarely does any soloist seem to rise sharply out of the ensemble or blown sections, the band breathing as one.

The album’s compositional cohesion is also a surprise considering Rose’s thematic material, which veers from odes to places (the lovely bijou opener ‘Trawangan’ and the Atlas Mountains drums’n’bass groove of ‘Afensou’) to a quote from a David Bowie song (‘Strange Doors’), to even a zombie-inspired piece (‘Zombie’) – the latter’s pentatonic folk melody really bringing Rosenwinkel to the fore as he plays in and around the simple bones of the tune, always shining, often startling. Rose Within & Without1

There is also the sweetly Monk-ish melancholy of Rose’s tribute to the dear departed Charlie Haden in ‘Ballad for Charlie’. Album closer, a take on the Australian bush ballad ‘Flash Jack from Gundagai’ – with its hints of the children’s rhyme ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ – (‘Flashjack’) is set over a 6/8 Afro-latin groove, allowing the Germans, American and Australians to get some simmering heat going.

I asked Rose a half-dozen questions, leading up to the launch of Within & Without over June and July.

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John Hardaker: Within & Without, which features Kurt Rosenwinkel, follows hot on the heels of The Vampires’ (which you co-lead with Nick Garbett) album with guitarist Lionel Loueke. What is it about guitarists?

Jeremy Rose: I love guitar, it has the ability to convey an incredibly rich range of textures and sounds, and has a history of amazing players. However, when I choose collaborators, it is often based on the individual: Lionel Loueke and Kurt Rosenwinkel are both unique voices on their instruments, and aesthetically, I felt they were a great match for the respective projects I was working with.

 

JH: The ensemble works superbly. How did you come to pick the players on the album?

JR: I have worked with pianist Jackson Harrison for many years now, on my Sand Lines album, and with Compass Quartet, on Oneirology. I had worked with Berlin based drummer Tobias Backhaus before, as I have been going back and forth to Berlin for the past few years also and had performed at Jazzahead with him in the Vampires. Bassist Andreas Lang was recommended by Tobias.

 

JH: What led you to playing an adaptation of the Australian bush ballad, ‘Flash Jack (from Gundagai)”?

JR: As part of my research for composing my Iron in the Blood (out on ABC Jazz), I found an excellent source of Australian folk songs, a few of which I arranged and adapted throughout the work. Flashjack was one that I liked but didn’t use for the project and thought it would work well on this album.

 

JH: Many of your pieces reflect or are inspired by your travels and adventures around the world. You are also one of our most prolific musicians, spreading your energies over many projects, with rarely a lapse in quality or direction. You appear quite restless, even driven. Is that a fair call?

JR: Yes I am driven, but grateful that I have had many opportunities and mentors to guide me along the way. I also very much love what I do, and so am incredibly lucky to be following my passion.

 

JH: What next for you?

JR: I am undertaking a residency at the OMI International Arts Centre in New York in August. Also planning some more touring with The Vampires in Europe.

 

JH: What are your thoughts on contemporary music in general – and Jazz in particular?

JR: Contemporary music is continuing to break down the barriers between styles and genres. Some of the most exciting music is happening on the borders of these known styles; collaborations between unexpected musicians, genres, and artforms.

 

Within & Without is available at https://www.earshift.com/jeremy-rose-within-without

Within & Without tour dates: 16 June, Unorthodox Church of Groove, Newcastle; 17 June, Sound Lounge, Sydney; 16 July, Jazz Lab, Melbourne

 

 

 

 

Chamber ensembles can be a beautiful thing. Intimacy, flexibility, improvisation, new tone colours, astringent dissonances are all aspects of the small group that cannot work within the heavy logistics of an orchestra or jazz big band.

Chamber ensembles comprising instruments of the same family – string quartets, brass choirs, woodwind ensembles – up the aesthetic ante by creating colours and moods that are utterly unique, and often otherworldly. Check Beethoven’s late quartets – could anything be added or subtracted? I think not. Perfection.

The maker-or-breaker of course is in writing for the small ensemble. With such a limited musical palette of timbres and instrument capabilities, every decision has to count. Done badly, it can be turgid or insipid. To hit the sweet spot that is the intersection of composition, knowledge and vision, it helps to be a hell of a player, listener and thinker.

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Altoist Jeremy Rose is all of those and with the Compass Quartet, he has a hell of a group. Baritone Luke Gilmour, SSO soprano Christina Leonard and tenor Matthew Ottignon make up the other three points of the compass. Without listing their multiple awards, accolades and huzzahs, suffice to say, this is an A-Team of Australian saxophony. Guest pianist Jackson Harrison is also one of Australian jazz’s best and brightest.

The Compass Quartet’s third album, Oneirology (~ study of dreams), is dominated by a four part suite by Rose, as well as containing one piece each from Rose and Harrison. The ‘Oneirology Suite’ was inspired by the recent Christopher Nolan film, Inception – a film about dreams within dreams within dreams, déjà vu and strange loops in time.

Rose’s writing for the suite exploits the full range of the saxophone quartet. Opening movement ‘Daydreamer’ has a nice woozy country vibe, a feeling of lying in a field with your mind drifting. The saxophone writing is warm and choral. Harrison’s piano calls to mind the blue-sky pastoralism of Aaron Copland and suits the mood perfectly.compass quartet2

Yet ‘Dream Within A Dream’, the Suite’s third movement has a fragmented surrealism that folds back on itself to unsettling effect. Rose’s solo, leapfrogging Jackson’s piano over sighing grey chords, is perfectly held and serves to sharpen the claustrophobic mood.

To hear Rose and Matthew Ottignon soloing with such sensitivity in a chamber setting such as Oneirology (~ study of dreams) is a pleasure, as I have been recently grooving to their funky side – Rose in the reggae-jazz Vampires and Ottignon in his afro-beat guise as Mr OTT. They are exceptional players, as are Gilmour and Leonard. But, more importantly, the Compass Quartet are a group that breathe (literally) together. John Shand has said of the group, “The horns curl around one another in dramatic precision, or explode in joyous or sultry improvisation”.

The addition of Jackson Harrison, on paper seemed a misjudgement – I was concerned that the piano would clog the astringent voice of the four saxes and intrude on their conversation by its very nature. Not only was I wrong – Harrison’s measured playing gets the balance right on all tunes – but he contributes the beautifully conceived and wittily titled ‘Charcoal Chorale’ to the set.

Jeremy Rose’s final piece, ‘Interplay’ – a lightly syncopated 7/8 groove – features the four saxes playing around each other, together, apart and in subtly myriad combinations as the piece flies by. Rose’s solo on ‘Interplay’ is a delight for anyone sacrilegious enough to suggest (maybe me) that the alto is the most ‘jazz’ of the horns – nimble, fleet, dappled with flying colours, with an edge of blues cry in its trajectory, a pure joy.

It is all wonderful stuff – and Oneirology (~ study of dreams) is a beautiful album from The Compass Quartet, a group who continue to amaze as they explore deeper and deeper into the possibilities that can bloom from the conversation between four saxophones.

For more information visit: http://compassquartet.com/ and http://www.earshift.com/

Published July 2103 on australianjazz.net