CD REVIEW: Alan Barnes - One For Moll

Alan Barnes - One For Moll
(Woodville Records WVCD144. CD review by Mike Collins)

One for Moll, the title track of this quartet album from Alan Barnes is named for his daughter. It’s a fiercely grooving, medium tempo, re-engineered minor blues and, says Barnes, gets pretty close to what he’s wanted to do in music.

The track starts with twelve bars of Adam King’s walking bass and uncluttered propulsion from Mark Taylor’s drums. It’s impossible not to focus on the simple, infectious groove. The repeating phrase of the theme is stated first on piano by Barry Green with a liquid touch locked tight with the groove. Then Barnes’ alto, warm toned with an edge of melancholy joins in before solos unfurl, developing ideas and sparking off the response from other members of the quartet. Both Barnes and Green reference the blues liberally whilst stretching surprising lines and un-clichéd flurries over the twisted blues changes. If this is what Alan Barnes is trying to do in music, it makes for compelling listening.

The quartet was assembled for the occasion, all known to Barnes through various collaborations, but not to each other. The material, a mix of Barnes originals and carefully chosen standards gives them plenty of scope to explore and work together. The recording has the energy and edge of a live performance.

Blue-Note opens the set doing what it says on the tin, sounding for all the world as if it had strayed in from a mid-sixties Cannonball Adderley set; the fizzing, twisting Up in Jim’s Flat and rolling almost modal feel of Swallows have a more contemporary, post-bop edge to them; Mango is a bright calypso; Thou Swell and Time after Time are familiar standards, the ballad Don’t Take Your Love from me perhaps less so.

The forms and conventions are familiar, but this quartet makes them fresh and personal. Every piece sounds like a conversation between the band. Barry Green’s solo on Thou Swell builds and spirals over the driving swinging, boppish but never sounding obvious then Barnes takes over, his legendary fluency extending and building the momentum. The pattern recurs throughout the set whatever the mood and vibe of the tune. It’s emotional, committed music making and every time Barnes blows a note it sounds like its straight from the heart. This is a reminder, if one were needed, of why Barnes is such an in-demand player, and of his gift for assembling great bands.

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