Tag Archives: Jim Bashford

Jazzlines presents: The Greyish Quartet

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The Greyish Quartet have been a prominent fixture in the Birmingham jazz scene for several years now. Formed in 2008 by pianist and composer David Austin Grey, the quartet has already seen success with their release of The Dark Red Room, an album of original compositions inspired by film and photography. Presented by Jazzlines, this gig was part of the series of the free events held in Symphony Hall’s Café Bar every Friday at 5pm. As the busy traffic creeps by outside the foyer’s tall windows, inside is a large dedicated crowd, choosing to end their week by listening to some quality jazz rather than facing the rush hour. The quartet performed a mixture of tunes from The Dark Red Room as well as some new compositions which they are taking to the recording studio in the near future. David Austin Grey spoke about the personal influences of his compositions, but also emphasised the importance of the collaborative creative process of the quartet’s music.

P1050219From the first number, the group established their elegant sound. Grey’s luscious piano style creates a rich layer which seems to float over the busyness of the bass and kit. Even the high energy pieces of the set seemed to retain an assured gracefulness, the rhythm section instruments blending effortlessly to support some stirring solos from Sam Wooster on trumpet. This said, all members of the band demonstrated their skills through improvised solo sections. There was melodic and innovative playing from Nick Jurd who utilised both double and electric bass during the set, whilst Jim Bashford sensitively accompanied the other players, but also built the excitement of the performance with exuberant fills and flourishes.

P1050221A fantastic thing about hearing a small jazz ensemble of this standard is that all of the musicians are seen to deliver equally soloistic playing throughout the set. The interactions of rhythms and melodic ideas flow so freely between them that, as a listener, it can be difficult to decide on whom to focus your attention. The result is a capturing of the senses, drawing the audience into the music through the focussed enthusiasm of each player as they craft their performance.

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A highlight was An Orderly and Beautiful Escape, which began in a slow latin feel, stylistically reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s Caravan. From here though, the piece developed into very much its own original entity, the whole quartet moving together to create variations on the tempo and a fascinating array of textures. The band also demonstrated an amazing use of space in the gentle ballad Life Goes to Plan Infrequently, a variation on the well known jazz standard I Fall in Love too Easily. Perhaps one of the most subtle yet stirring tunes of the set was  Kindness of Ravens, a stunning composition built upon a simple bass riff, progressing and building to an amazing layering of sound, perfectly completed with the return of the beautiful, rippling piano motif for the outro.

P1050215The Greyish Quartet’s distinctive sound and innovative style make them a perfect example of the incredible craftsmanship present in British jazz at the moment. They are currently touring other major cities, but will return to Birmingham next Sunday, 19th of May to play at The Cross in Moseley.
More details can be found at https://www.facebook.com/jazzshark

Anna Lumsden

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Nick Jurd Quartet @ Rush Hour Blues

Friday evenings in Birmingham always come with the promise of some spectacular entertainment in the form of Rush Hour Blues at Symphony Hall. Organised by Birmingham Jazz, this weekly session regularly features various jazz and blues artists from the city and further afield. The latest performance was from talented young bass player Nick Jurd, appearing in his quartet alongside other former Birmingham Conservatoire students.

The group displayed a captivating sense of unity in their set, performing a range of Jurd’s original compositions as well as inspired renditions of jazz standards. Mostly, their repertoire was ballad-like or medium swing paced, lulling the audience into a meditative state and providing a welcome contrast from the frenetic rush hour traffic seen through the foyer’s ceiling-high windows. Even some of the busier samba-feel numbers provided a laid-back sense of contemplation.

Despite the overall relaxed state of the music, many of the quartet’s pieces enclosed fascinatingly frenetic improvisation from each of the band. Nick Jurd in particular demonstrated skilful use of the higher register of his double bass, producing solos both melodically and rhythmically captivating. Alto saxophonist Rachel Cohen often chose a more sustained and emotive style her solos, whilst trumpeter Sam Wooster displayed both subtlety and ferocity in his playing, effectively combining with perfectly placed rhythmic interaction from Jim Bashford on drum kit.

Jurd’s softly spoken introduction to each tune and acknowledgement of his fellow musicians did much to maintain the mellow tone of the gig. One particular tune that will undoubtedly hit home with students of many different disciplines was Jurd’s own composition ‘Sorted’, a piece he recounts writing after graduating. This piece was, in line with the rest of the set, of a smooth, unrushed tempo, yet still expressed excitement: as he explained, it reflects a sense of accomplishment and an undeniable taste of freedom.

Interestingly for a band of this size, the quartet did not contain any chordal instruments such as a piano or guitar as would be expected to complete the texture of a traditional jazz combo. This lack of chords was slightly unusual to the ear at first, but as the set went on this supposed gap in the texture actually created a unique sense of space in the music: this allowed the subtleties of harmony from the bass and horn instruments to shine.

Nick Jurd and his quartet undeniably transfixed the large crowd that frequents the Rush Hour Blues sessions. With a captivating blend of precision playing and musical ingenuity, the group brought a tranquil end to the day in the otherwise bustling city centre. The next Rush Hour Blues instalment will feature the MHJQ Jazz Blues Trio on Friday 3rd February, 5.30-7pm. Admission is free, so there really isn’t a more ideal way to end your week.

Words by Anna Lumsden