REVIEW: Hannes Riepler Quartet with Chris Cheek at Cambridge Modern Jazz

L-R Hannes Riepler, Oli Hayhurst, Chris Cheek, James Maddren 

Hannes Riepler Quartet with Chris Cheek
(Cambridge Modern Jazz at the Hidden Rooms in Jesus Lane. January 14th 2016. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The year has got off to a good start at Cambridge Modern Jazz. The quartet of Austrian-born guitarist Hannes Riepler, with New York-based saxophonist Chris Cheek, drummer James Maddren and assist Oli Hayhurst had drawn a completely full house to the Hidden Rooms in Jesus Lane for the first gig of the year.

This quartet project has its origins in the downstairs bar at the Vortex, where Hannes Riepler runs the band at a weekly Sunday night session. The guitarist told me a few months ago that they found things musically in common straight away: “My music is melodic and tune-oriented, and Chris is a very lyrical player.”

What I hear first, every time, in Chris Cheek's playing is his way of believing in, of understanding, of shaping the melodic lines composers give him, and then of commmunicating all of that in his playing to the audience. He did it with the tricky work of Guilermo Klein about a year ago in the Wigmore Hall about a year ago (Review), and was  he was doing it again last night. Hannes Riepler's compositions range widely, often with a hint of the cool/hip/mysterious/dark.

James Maddren

The rhythm unit of James Maddren and Oli Hayhurst also brings masses of quality and character and strength to the party. Hayhurst is a really positive, pro-active bassist, and his control of time and tuning are super-human, and Maddren's alertness and constant inventiveness and responsiveness seem to know no limits.

Four strong individuals, developing progressively into a very fine band indeed. Hannes Riepler is a wonderfully controlled and careful and thoughtful player, but I have to admit I sometimes wanted him to be just a tad less responsible, to give way to petulance or carelessness or aggression. On a sassy tune like Modern Guilt from this group's great new album Wild Life (Jellymould), perhaps he would have stretched out, but for some reason he didn't call it. Why? Perhaps Cambridge is a place where bands feel they are being judged, and sense the need to be buttoned up. (Discuss. Time One Hour, Write neatly and on one side of the paper.)

Chris Cheek

Forthcoming gigs at the Hidden Rooms: 

Alec Dankworth's World Spirit - Thu 28 January
Steve Fishwick, Osian Roberts, Frank Basile Sextet, In the Empire State - Thu 11 February

Cambridge Modern Jazz website

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