Review: Madwort Sax Quartet, Euan Palmer Quartet

Euan Palmer Quartet. Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights Reserved


Madwort Saxophone Quartet, Euan Palmer Quartet
(The Salisbury, 2nd September 2012. Review and drawings by Geoff Winston)


The new season of Jazz at the Salisbury got off to a very bright start with neatly contrasting sets from Tom Ward's London-based Madwort Saxophone Quartet, on their live debut, and Euan Palmer's Quartet, alumni of the Birmingham Conservatoire's rigorous Jazz degree course.

Ward intuitively absorbs many stimulating musical approaches, having attended workshops with Steve Coleman at New York's SIM (School for Improvisational Music) after his studies at Guildhall. His compositions are strong, but also complex and demanding for their excecutants. The four accomplished sax players gelled with a confidence and - in the best sense of the word - a professionalism, which impressed not least because of quite how high the technical bar had been set.

All four were reading off scores and opportunities for expressive extemporisation - few, but strategically located - were taken up with gusto. Andy Woolf - seen on several occasions in different settings at the Salisbury - and Chris Williams of Led Bib maintained a breezy, assertive harmonic discourse with Ward's alto while Cath Roberts underscored the texture with exemplary fluidity and assurance on baritone sax.

Ward was not to be typecast - there were strong echoes of Moondog's spiky, unyielding structures and the mathematical syncopations of Reich and Glass, as well as the joyous intensity of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, but maybe at the core was a link back to Les Six and Francaix's fleet and agile saxophone pieces. The group's sychronisation, the engaging, rounded brass sound and the impressive ease with which the four musicians blended to dish out a significantly distinctive musical proposition made for a perfect opening sortie, and suggested that we may well be hearing much more from them.


Hamish Livingstone. Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2012. All Rights reserved.


Drummer Euan Palmer's quartet turned in a cultivated, straight-down the line offering, comfortably traversing conventional jazz formats, every so often hinting at jumping-off points to what could have been more adventurous deviations, even if they seemed reluctant to let their hair down. Palmer maintained the tone with light brushwork and deft time-keeping while guitarist Carpenter's inwardly-focused solos sat well with Chris Young's tight, fluid bursts on copper-bodied alto, and Hamish Livingstone's integrative bass work which served to maintain a well-honed balance throughout.

This was a great start for Jazz at the Salisbury season who have got a NEW WEBSITE , which details their autumn schedule.

Madwort Saxophone Quartet:

Tom Ward: alto sax/composition
Chris Williams: alto/soprano sax
Andy Woolf: tenor sax
Cath Roberts: baritone sax

Euan Palmer Quartet

Chris Young: alto sax
Tobie Carpenter: guitar
Hamish Livingstone: double bass
Euan Palmer: drums

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