The brand new live album!
"On its third album, recorded live at Bennett's Lane, the Quintet reflects the whole Jazz tradition, with bassist Leigh Barker drawing on blues, country and gospel influences in his four compositions.
It's honest, unpretentious music played with obvious joy and a commitment to good old fashioned swing"
- Roger Mitchell, Sunday Herald Sun.
Extended liner notes:
Leigh Barker has always dedicated himself to finding the truth in music. No matter how difficult the search, he has stayed the course. That course has led him to many aching muscles and blistered fingers in pursuit of the full, musky, thick, buoyant sound he gives those strings on this, his latest recording.
Since I've known Leigh, he has coupled this pursuit of instrumental excellence with an equally vigorous quest to compose original music. The results are shown here, with an originality that feels somehow familiar; a tough balance to achieve.
Opening with a rollicking New Orleans-infused groove, "Fortunate Seas" gets the band off to a focused and glorious beginning. In "Beethoven" we hear an accordion instead of piano. Lots of people use accordion these days but it's often in a throwback genre, or something so far removed from jazz that it becomes something else. Not here. The instrument provides an underpinning for the trumpet and soprano sax that I haven't heard before. "Lynnville", a melancholy ballad, gives us many strains of influence tied together, soprano and trumpet trading sorrows and sighs followed by some stride piano with a fierce quiet-storm of a bass solo. "In the Country with Bill" is a swinging delight of blues and gospel with a lilt that never leaves us, and hints back to the feel of the opening track.
The centerpiece of the set is the ten-minute sprawling composition entitled "Guts of Steel". This is a woven tapestry of grooves that gives each band member time to shine. Matt Boden opens for us with a forthright and deeply-pocketed solo. Breaking down into a jagged free section, Eamon McNelis ups the ante into a fiery, racing ride that shows his love of aggressive brass. Before the band burns out we get another shift, leading to a slower yet still intense tenor solo from John Felstead. Somehow none of these sections feels disjunct, as Leigh and his formidable drummer, Al McGrath-Kerr, make the transitions seamless.
We end with something we know yet are still learning about. "Hoegaarden Blues" is a new composition that fits into the continuum of great blues songs. Leigh is absolutely commanding on this track. Listen to his note choices and how they propel the drums while complimenting the soloist. That's what I want to hear. And you can tell that's what the crowd wanted to hear too. I love the thought of this crowd of folks down in Melbourne coming out to hear these local musicians playing music every bit as good if not better than anything you could find in New York City these days. I wish there were more people here in NYC that loved to swing as much as these guys do. But our gain would surely be Australia's loss, so we'll have to just hope they come up for a visit sometime. I for one will be in the front row ready to yell.
- Doug Wamble
June 18, 2008