Narrow Escape - Harmony Less Quartet: CD

This review was published on: August 27th 2019

Harmony Less Quartet with Tommaso Starace and Dave O’Higgins (saxophones)
Music Center

In every respect this is a splendid addition to the jazz saxophone repertoire – a CD of modern music which is interesting, accessible, novel and which contains extremely intelligent musicality throughout. In my opinion this group takes a route that Gerry Mulligan might have followed (had he survived long enough). This is post-bop jazz without the dissonant wanderings/wailing and, dare I say ‘honks’, that some others have chosen. Each musician contributes his full 25% share of the musicality and is an absolute master of his instrument. With a playing time of 66 minutes we are treated to nine tracks – five originals from Tommaso and one each from Thelonious Monk (‘Trinkle, Tinkle’), John Coltrane (‘Grand Central’), Van Heusen (‘Like Someone in Love’) and Dizzy Gillespie (‘Be Bop’).

On this well-recorded and balanced album, captured while the quartet was touring in Italy, Tommaso sticks to his alto saxophone and Dave to the tenor. Both deliver saxophonic performances of the highest calibre, where appropriate supplemented with altissimo excursions and formidable engagement with veritable torrents of ‘changes’! But it is in the integrated ‘all hands on deck’ passages that this outfit shines. No, wrong word – ‘sparkles’ is more appropriate. My listening notes highlight two tracks unquestionably of five-star quality: Tommaso’s ‘Fugue in E flat’ and Dizzy’s ‘Be Bop’, both strong candidates for essential listening by all saxophone undergraduates.

If I was empowered to assign star ratings in the manner of the US All Music publications, every one of the group’s remaining tracks would garner at least four stars. This
rating is much boosted by the exquisite performances of string bassist Davide Liberti and drummer Ruben Bellavia. Just as with a saxophone quartet ‘there ain’t no place to hide’, there’s just no place to go in this ‘harmonyless’ quartet save the provision of top-quality support and soloing. These guys are just amazing. Very strongly recommended indeed.

Kenneth Morris

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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at Flat 51, Parkview Apartments, 122 Chrisp Street, London, E14 6ET. Email: membership(@) Tel: 01642 769 558

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