CD REVIEW: QCBA (Collins/Allen/Stanley/Zirilli) – Beauty in Quiet Places

QCBA – Beauty in Quiet Places
(Ubuntu Music. CD Review by Peter Vacher)

The enigmatic band name turns out to be a compound version of the initials of this quartet’s two main protagonists, trumpeter Quentin Collins and saxophonist Brandon Allen, two busy metropolitan aces here supported by Hammond organist Ross Stanley and Enzo Zirilli on drums.

All eight pieces on the album are composed by Collins and Allen and stand up pretty well, the front-liners propelled by Stanley’s chunky chords as on Collins’ fast-moving, Latin-infused Fuerteventura, his flugelhorn skittish and fluent, as Zirilli punches home and Allen, ever the enthusiast, launches into an eloquent run. Allen’s Handshake opens with hand-clapped rhythm as Stanley explores the Hammond’s range before settling into a riff, with horn accompaniment, this affirming the group’s commitment to the Blue Note house style, Allen’s yearning tenor underpinned by groans and grunts from Stanley.

This, it seems to me, is the point of the album, two like-minded improvisers whose stylistic template was formed by the classic hard-bop outpourings of Silver and company, but with added spice from Stanley’s often oblique organ effusions. The title piece has a pleasingly groovy feel and certainly bears repetition, not always the case for originals these days and has its own tricky moments, all carried off with aplomb ahead of the very spirited Modal Transition’ also by Allen with QC’s bright attack foregrounded. Softer lines follow with his ‘Oscar’s Lullaby’, a flugelhorn ballad with added soprano, Stanley’s lush, orchestral chords filling out the sound, ahead of Allen’s spiky solo and rounded out by the flugelhorn’s warm balm.

So, not just another blowing session but a date thought-through and acquitted with care and no little creativity. The chosen voicings offer aural strength and there’s evidence of a keen concern for dynamic variation. Given all of this, there’s plenty to enjoy, the performances marked by tight interplay and strong solos, sophistication oozing from every note. Good things come in small packages, so they say, and that’s the case here. The only surprise is that it has taken from June 2013 until now to see the album’s release.

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