Graeme Wilson Quartet - Sure Will Hold a Boat
(Pleasureland Records GBWQ002. CD Review by Adrian Pallant)
Sure enough, it's a quirky, kite-flying album cover… but the eight-or-so finely tuned 'tentacles' behind saxophonist Graeme Wilson's new quartet release, Sure Will Hold a Boat, deliver over sixty minutes of bubbling, accessible and original contemporary jazz.
With band roots in North-East England, the personnel of Wilson (tenor), Paul Edis (piano), Andy Champion (double bass) and Adam Sinclair (drums) possess a magnetic aura which, over several hours of listening, doesn't diminish. Perhaps it's the perfect balance of the saxophonist's sit-up-and-listen compositions and the close-knit assuredness of the performances, but opener Searchlight Nevada feels rooted in tradition as it buoyantly swings out, especially in Wilson's vibrant, extended duel with drummer Sinclair; and Pontoon's Latinesque zest – a recurring feature of Paul Edis' sparkling piano technique – is similarly memorable, its broad tenor lines (imagine a Tommy Smith My Funny Valentine) so alluring.
Remora provides the answer to the album's curious title – sometimes known as 'suckerfish', it's fabled that the Remora species can hamper boats on their seaward journey, by clinging on to them; so this number's bright, stop/start bossa appropriately alludes to that fishy tale, Wilson's perky tenor soaring above its infectious rhythm, whilst Edis and Champion provide similarly attractive soloing (it soon becomes apparent that none of this quartet's members are simply anchormen). At over ten minutes' welcome duration, The Sycamore's measured limpidity suggests smoky, autumnal colours, as Edis' piano lines delicately tumble; and in bristling, big-band-style The New Wallaw, Wilson and his quartet conjure the West Coast esprit of Stan Getz – quite a firecracker.
Amidst all of this animation, arguably the album's finest show-stopper is most affecting tenor and piano dialogue Spinning Slowly. On a first hearing, this exquisite interlude demanded a number of replays to enjoy its sumptuous, descending tenor phrases and modal piano cascades; an absolute treasure from Wilson and Edis. Turquoise's blithe momentum is maintained by Edis, Champion and Sinclair, with Graeme Wilson's song-like, chromatic invention a delight; and jaunty Offissa Pupp saunters confidently before end-piece Five Floors Up (complete with nonchalant tenor sax and stride piano, plus janitor's corridor whistle) conveys a certain lazybones levity.
Confirmation (as if it were needed) of the presence of original, high-quality jazz in the provinces, Sure Will Hold a Boat is a surefire winner.