REVIEW: Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet at CBSO Centre, Birmingham

Mark Guiliana at the CBSO Centre
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet
(CBSO Centre, Birmingham, 27 April 2018. Review and photos by John Watson)

There is frequently a single element that distinguishes an outstanding band from a good one. I would suggest that often this key element is how strongly the fellow musicians engage with the drummer. This goes beyond the basics of accurate timing, and can even be considered separate to interplay – that is, the way each musician plays off the others’ phrases.

The engagement I’m describing is a fundamental “locking in” – creating a sense that the band is moving confidently forward as a unit rather than as a loose collection of individual musicians – and it was well in evidence in the performance of drummer Mark Guiliana’s Jazz Quartet, currently on an international tour including dates in the UK and Ireland.

The playing of New Jersey-born Guiliana has enhanced many outstanding groups, and I had heard him in concert just a few months ago when he powered saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s Quartet in Belgrade, Serbia. Guiliana’s electronic collaboration with pianist Brad Mehldau (Mehliana) has been extensively praised, as has his work with his project Beat Music and such diverse artists as Avishai Cohen, Lionel Loueke, David Bowie and Dhafer Youssef.

His tour includes four UK dates: a London concert on 6 May with the Royal College of Music Big Band as part of the RCM Festival of Percussion, preceded by quartet performances at the Band On The Wall in Manchester (26 April), this CBSO Centre in Birmingham, and Turner Sims Concert Hall in Southampton (28 April), before flying to Ireland for a date at Sugar Club in Dublin (29 April).
Jason Rigby at the Birmingham concert
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

With tenor and soprano saxophonist Jason Rigby, bassist Chris Morrissey and pianist Fabian Almazan. the drummer presented a selection of compositions from his recent album Jersey as well as some new pieces. It was a masterly performance – a wealth of ideas, superb control of dynamics, and individual highlights.
Fabian Almazan soloing with Mark Guiliana's Jazz Quartet
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

These highlights included a richly-phrased solo on the album’s title track from Morrissey, with the leader using just his hands to gently beat the snare drum (with snare disengaged) and the deep tom-tom, and a beautifully breathy sub-tone tenor solo from Rigby set against a bowed drone on the bass. Pianist Almazan took a particularly enagaging solo, with sparkling arpeggios phrased in a twisted, surprising way, like reflections in the fragments of a broken mirror. And on Morrissey’s composition Waltz For What’s In Front Of You, Rigby launched into a grandly explorative solo on soprano, his bright tone in strong contrast to his mellow sound on tenor.

An encore showcased Guiliana’s only extended drum solo of the evening - and it was a gem, played entirely on the bass drum and the deep tom-tom, with bells resting on the skin, creating a dynamic closer to an impressive performance.
Chris Morrissey at the CBSO Centre
Photo credit: John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

Mark Guiliana will be at the Royal College of Music Festival of Percussion on 6 May (DETAILS)

LINK: Dan Paton's feature on Mark Guiliana

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