CD Review: Chris Biscoe Profiles Quartet - Live at Campus West



Chris Biscoe Profiles Quartet - Live at Campus West
(Trio Records TR591. CD Review by Chris Parker)


Some of the most exciting contemporary live jazz – Alex Bonney’s Albert Ayler-inspired gigs, Dog Soup’s viscerally exciting take on electric-period Miles Davis, Liam Noble's Brubeck interpretations spring immediately to mind – involves musicians revisiting the music of figures who have inspired them, and this Chris Biscoe Profiles Quartet performance, which centres on music composed by or associated with Eric Dolphy, is right up there with the best.

There is something uniquely exhilarating in Dolphy’s overall sound and approach, his music seeming to stream out of his bands in a joyful, intoxicating rush, and Biscoe’s quartet – completed by alto player Tony Kofi, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer Stu Butterfield – perfectly emulates the great master in this respect, the front-line horns meshing in a wild, exuberant wail that immediately brings the great man’s music to mind.

Biscoe must be one of the most underrated figures in UK jazz, his unassuming, learned demeanour belying a soloist of passionate (and unfailingly inventive) intensity, whether he’s playing alto or alto clarinet; Kofi, as he proved so memorably in his Monk-inspired album, All is Know (and there is an impressive performance of Monk’s ‘Epistrophy’ here), is a past master at applying his pleasingly astringent tone and urgent improvisational fecundity to classic bop and post-bop jazz, so their combined force is considerable, and in Bartley (one of the steadiest yet most subtly propulsive bassists currently operating in this country) and Butterfield (all buoyancy and spring) they have the perfect rhythmic foils.

There is some duplication of material (‘Les’, ‘Out to Lunch’, ‘Potsa Lotsa’) from the quartet’s 2008 studio album, Gone in the Air (Trio TR578), but the eight-minute visit to the Mingus classic ‘Fables of Faubus’ is worth the price of admission alone, and this hour-long Herts Jazz concert, recorded in 2011 at Welwyn Garden City, documents a first-rate performance from a polished but wonderfully vibrant band.

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