- 2014 has been a stellar year for jazz quartets working without chording instruments - two horns, bass drums, no piano, no guitar. Trumpeter Tom Harrell released the marvelous a very groove-based Trip (High Note Records); a somewhat old-timey sounding Riverside (Greenleaf Music), featuring trumpeter Dave Douglas; the smoldering and hypnotic The Lathe of Heaven (ECM Records) by the Mark Turner quartet.
Add to the list The Spin Quartet's In Circles
Influenced, in a bold, even brash fashion by the tradition that draws from baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's quartet's of the late fifties and alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman' free jazz quartets of the late 50s and early sixties, The Spin Quartet dives even deeper into the groove than Tom Harrell's Trip does, on the Clark Sommers-penned opener, "Little Marionette." Sommers is the group's bassist, and his sound is big enough to rattle the windows. Tenor saxophonist Geof Bradfield blows some unison with trumpeter Chad McCullough before the horn men weave lines around each other - Bradfield contained and menacing, McCullough fiery, on edge, while drummer Kobie Watkins teams with Sommers to lay the tune's chordless framework.
"Oranges Are Supposed To Be Orange," composed by trumpeter McCullough, is a loose-jointed ballad with a steady-but-inexorable momentum. This format gives the horn players a great deal of freedom and Bradfield and McCullough make the most of it. "The Crocodile Memoir (Six Nuns)" is a reflective piece from McCullough's pen. The trumpeter follows the elastic groove with his solo. Bradfield roars on his - not a feral roar, but a warning. Maybe the crocodile's giving the nuns a chance to back off.
"You Will Look For Yours On Earth," written by Bradfield, has the feel of an anthem, a big, seismic announcement, he type that grabs you by the front of the shirt, and bassist Sommer's "Meltdown" finds the horn players in fine fettle, inspired, letting things rip.
The group covers Nick Drake's "A Place To Be," bringing some unabashed beauty to the set, and there's also Gilberto Gill's "Baiao Atemporal," a brisk and cocky tune, well suited for the dancing shoes, for those so disposed. In Circles
by The Spin Quartet, one of the top chordless quartet sets of the year.