Julian Siegel Quartet - Urban Theme Park
(Basho Records SRCD 35-2. CD Review by Chris Parker
Whether he's playing with the jazz-rock band, Partisans, he co-leads with guitarist Phil Robson, or with more mainstream projects: his Anglo-American trio (completed by Joey Baron and Greg Cohen) and hisquartet (which produced 2002's Close-Up), Nottingham-born reedsman Julian Siegel simply exudes class and thoughtful elegance.
While never a showy, gung-ho soloist determined to demonstrate his technical facility at every opportunity, he is none the less a completely assured front man for a band like the one on this recording (long-time associate Liam Noble on piano, bassist Oli Hayhurst, drummer Gene Calderazzo), not only firing off a series of intelligent, cogent but powerful solos on tenor, soprano, bass clarinet and clarinet, but also providing a tight, sensitively interactive band with nine varied and absorbing original compositions.
It might be all too easy to overlook such an ungimmicky figure – his style is not to swagger through the tricksiest of time signatures, nor to overload his pieces with sudden blasts of electronic noise or fusillades of hip-hop – but Siegel (like the ever-resourceful Noble, who throughout this album proves himself once again the perfect partner for the saxophonist) has gained his place at the centre of UK jazz by sheer talent and musicianship.
He is as confident in the field of hard bop (Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson his more obvious influences) as he is in slightly more outré styles: ('Game of Cards' borrows its form from Stravinsky, 'Drone Job' sparingly utilises electronics etc. , and Urban Theme Park is a polished, subtle but engagingly vigorous piece of work.
An early candidate for CD of the Year.