REVIEW: Alison Rayner Quintet at Pizza Express Dean Street

Alison Rayner Quintet
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Alison Rayner Quintet
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 21 February 2018. Review by Charlie Anderson)

The Alison Rayner Quintet are a band with a wealth of experience and the musical chemistry that they have developed is very much evident, both on their recordings and in live performances.

They released their second album, A Magic Life, back in 2016 and started their set at Pizza Express Live with the original Musicophilia, a grooving piece from the album. With lots of forward momentum, the piece was inspired by the writings of Oliver Sacks and the music of bassist Eberhard Weber.

Alison Rayner’s strength lies in conjuring up different sound worlds as she is often inspired by locations and personal experiences. This was conveyed in tunes such as the atmospheric Swanage Bay, the Indian influenced The Trunk Call and a new piece, Croajingolong Bushwalk, inspired by her first trip to Australia.

Rayner has said that the reason for the band’s success is that each member of the band is a composer in their own right and whilst a majority of the pieces were Rayner’s originals, each set featured a piece composed by a different member. In the first set, Diane McLoughlin’s New Day was a pensive and dreamy groove with phrases exchanged between piano and saxophone before breaking out into a bright jazz waltz and some fantastically fluid soloing from Steve Lodder. In the second set, Lodder’s own composition, The OK Chorale, began as an energetic groove before transforming into a Bach-inspired mellow piano feature.

What also stood out was guitarist Deirdre Cartwright’s ability to play just about any sound imaginable, ranging from a sitar effect on The Trunk Call to a didgeridoo sound on Croajingolong Bushwalk, together with her ability to adapt to any context whether playing bebop solo lines or rock guitar riffs.

Drummer Buster Birch had blended in so well with the band he was almost unnoticeable but was given a chance to shine on the encore, Queer Bird, from the 2014 album August.

What makes Rayner’s music so enjoyable is her distinctive, powerful bass lines combined with strong melodic lines, together with arrangements that really bring out the strengths of the different members of the band.

LINKS:Alison Rayner interview with Alison Bentley from 2018

CD Review A Magic Life

Podcast interview from 2016


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