CD REVIEW: Mike Collins - And suddenly, evening

Mike Collins - And suddenly, evening
(Suitpieces Records spr0002. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)

Those fortunate enough to have viewed the gentle illumination of the city once known as Aquae Sulis, at dusk from higher ground, might easily concur that this new quartet release, And suddenly, evening, offers a fittingly elegant soundtrack.

With a title actually inspired by Salvatore Quasimodo's poem Ed e Subito Sera – 'Everyone stands alone at the heart of the world, pierced by a ray of sunlight, and suddenly it is evening' – Bath-based pianist Mike Collins presents an accomplished programme of three originals and five arrangements which shimmer, mercurially, with subtle diffusions and crisp glints of light. Joining him are the equally adept Lee Goodall (saxophones), Ashley-John Long (bass) and Greg White (drums).

Opening with Pete Erskine's On the Lake (written for piano, bass and drums), the quartet colours  its sublimity differently, with Lee Goodall's softly-phrased and extended soprano sax improvisations; with Mike Collins' amiable piano cadences complemented by Ashley-John Long's delicately hovering bass soloing, and a diminishingly abstract watercolour coda, sundown at the water's edge is beautifully reflected. The 'polite funk' of Collins' own piano trio piece, Grieg is Here, possesses a charming Monkish impudence characterised by the resounding pliancy of Long's bass and the pianist's endearing melodic japes (perhaps a classic in the making); and Cole Porter's Everything I Love exudes, with notable immediacy, the feel-good swing of a good jazz night out, Collins' soloing both bright and frequently unpredictable.

The lyrical melancholy of Alec Wilder's Blackberry Winter is given a more optimistic 'New York smooth' groove in Collins' piano trio format, Greg White's softly brushed kit and Long's sustained bass underpinning crystalline, high piano extemporisation. Flat Six, a buoyant, ticking original from the leader, features fine tenor work from Goodall (phrasing and vibrato reminiscent of both Barbara Thompson and Tim Garland) and a memorable 'head', whilst the piano and bass duo arrangement of Cuban singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez's Oleo De Mujer Con Sombrero (inspired by Bobo Stenson's interpretation) dances elegantly and spaciously, Long's accurately decorated bass lines so very appealing.

ReProm highlights, again, the quality and attractiveness of Mike Collins' compositions – a lively, breezy quartet number which all seem to revel in. Here, Goodall brings both animation and mellowness to his sax explorations, as Collins and Long also shine individually over Greg White's brisk percussion. To close, the most delightfully sumptuous reading of Thelonious Monk's classic Ruby My Dear, Goodall's tenor simply magnificent in its deep, carefree deportment, and exquisitely measured all round.

This is a splendidly accessible quartet that clearly thrives on its blend of originals and interpretations of standards. Certainly a satisfying album, indicating a great live experience, too.

The CD launch will be at Bristol's Be Bop Club on 20 February. Further dates are on the Mike Collins Trio website.

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