CD Review: Brian Molley Quartet - Clock

Brian Molley Quartet - Clock
(BGMM 01. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)

Brian Molley is a saxophone player, composer and teacher, originally from Hamilton in the Scottish lowlands, who has been based in nearby Glasgow since his late teens. He has worked for many years in big bands, recording studios and the backing groups of pop stars, away from the limelight. Now, at 36, he has emerged as a leader. His debut CD, Clock, is a quartet album into which a great deal of time and effort has evidently been invested.

There is a controlled bustle to the opening Cara y Cruz, driven by drummer Stuart Brown, and it contains ear-catching solos by the leader’s tenor sax and Tom Gibbs on piano. Much the same applies to Parapraxis (the last tune before the “bonus track”) yet these are perhaps the least interesting on an unusually fine album.

Layered horns (clarinet, two bass clarinets and three soprano saxophones) underpin Molley’s tenor in skilfully-crafted, brooding harmony on Destinesia, which is somewhere on the spectrum between Gil Evans and Marty Ehrlich. It is a minor masterpiece. The more expansive Destinesia (of Fred and George) – a reference to the relationship between Chopin and Sand - has at its core an excellent bass solo by the Brazilian Mario Caribe.

With a soprano sax in his hands, Molley rips into Chance on Chan with a bouncy swagger. It’s a medium-fast blues, vaguely reminiscent of Charlie Parker’s Blues for Alice and Bloomdido. The title alludes to Bird’s common-law wife, of course. When I Talk About Swimming is snappily contrapuntal and features the most adventurously swinging music on the disc. All four musicians work their socks off. Iris and her Bow is a rarity in jazz: a nod to Greek mythology and a slow bossa nova! It has an appealingly melancholic feel and is beautifully played.

Two of the ten pieces are not composed by Molley. Harold Arlen’s Get Happy is slightly altered and boots along nicely. A slow, sensitive What’ll I Do demonstrates that Irving Berlin’s great song needs little embellishment.

The album concludes with the bonus track Um, Dois, Três, a brief, jaunty Latin number featuring Molley’s clarinet, accompanied by percussion and Caribe’s guitar. Listening to it always brings a smile.

Clock could have been designed to show off the leader’s versatility. Instead, Brian Molley has used his broad experience wisely, and recorded a varied, purposeful and focused set. To coin a phrase, it's strikingly good.

The CD is launched on Tuesday 29th October 2013 at Ramshorn Theatre, 98 Ingram Street, Glasgow G1 1ES. 7.30pm.
Box office: 0141 552 3489.

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