Review: Ornate Quartet at St Alfege Church

Left to right: Evan Clegg, Paul Baxter, Pete Hill, Simon Marsh
Review: Ornate Quartet
(St Alfege Church. Friday 7th March 2013. Review by Rob Edgar)


Last Friday (7th March 2013) saw the début performance at St Alfege Church (part of the Trinity Laban concert series at the venue) of the newly formed Ornate Quartet, a group who came together over a shared love of Ornette Coleman and whose programme for the concert focused mainly on Coleman's earlier work.

Had the audience not been told that this was the group's first outing, it would have been impossible to guess. The group played the music with astonishing sensitivity and flair, easily flitting between the contrasting sections of the opening number The Sphinx. Saxophonist Simon Marsh immediately impressed with a solo that took into account the acoustics of the church wonderfully, utilising long notes and plenty of space allowing his sound to slowly seep through the venue and parts of his solo during Angel Voice, set against a drone from double bassist Paul Baxter, could almost have been mistaken for a slightly rougher Jan Garbarek.

The set was full of stimulating but subtle tricks; during the The Blessing for example, we were treated to remarkable interplay between drummer/bandleader Pete Hill and Paul Baxter, Baxter's syncopated accents during the opening melody were followed ever so gently by Hill's bass drum and the front line of Simon Marsh and trumpeter Evan Clegg sounded surprisingly full for just two musicians, especially during the solo sections in Congeniality which saw some intense, contrapuntal playing between them.

A real highlight was the one original tune of the set; O.D.C.E By Evan Clegg (named after the members of the Ornette Coleman Quartet) had a tritone-heavy opening in the trumpet and bass and was full of biting bitonality between Marsh and Clegg as licks were often simply stated then re-stated from a different root. Despite some quite pronounced dissonances, the piece was gentle and lilting in character, Pete Hill using different combinations of beaters, sticks and brushes providing an airy texture as the piece gradually unravelled before fading away.

It was a hidden gem of a gig and the group proved that they are one to look out for in future.

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