Out February 7th via Hate Laugh Music
Featuring MIKKEL PLOUG – Guitar (Denmark), SIMON JERMYN – Electric Bass (Ireland/Brooklyn) & KEVIN BROW – Drums (Canada)
Alto saxophonist and composer Pete Robbins has united a quartet of musicians with far-flung origins from across North America and Europe. Recorded at the end of one of their numerous European tours, Live in Basel documents a band focused on the interaction of its members.
The quartet is rooted in the time Robbins has spent in Copenhagen. After spending half of 2002 in the city, Robbins has returned frequently in the intervening years. His first acquaintance from the group was Kevin Brow, a drummer originally from Toronto living in Copenhagen. Bassist Simon Jermyn, an Irish ex-pat to New York, was introduced to Robbins by Brow.
On the following visit to Copenhagen, Jermyn introduced Robbins to guitarist Mikkel Ploug, Jermyn’s classmate from conservatory in the Hague. “Mikkel and I have talked extensively about booking,” says Robbins. “He tours constantly, and he served as my inspiration to start booking European tours.” Since 2007, the Transatlantic Quartet has performed about 70 times in various European clubs and at festivals across the continent. “European audiences are really hungry for jazz music and creative music,” Robbins enthuses. “They’re very receptive to sounds that they haven’t necessarily heard before.”
This warm reception is reflected in Robbins’ decision to document the band in a live setting. His sixth album as a leader, Live in Basel is his third consecutive live album with as many different groups. As such, he has a keen awareness of the pros and cons of live recording. “You lose the ability to be a little more selective about how you put the album together, and you can’t do multiple takes,” says Robbins, but what does come across is the potential of Robbins and company to “blast the place down” when they choose to.
“I’m always looking to have a contrast from one record to the next,” says Robbins, and the relative directness of the Transatlantic Quartet is quite different from the free improvisation of the Unnamed Quartet and the timbal density of siLENT Z. “Do the Hate Laugh Shimmy (Fresh Sound, 2007) had a lot of layering and doubling,” he explains. “siLENT Z had a lot of stuff going on! It was refreshing to go into an environment where it was less about orchestration and more about interaction.”
Robbins describes the tunes in the Transatlantic Quartet’s repertoire as “probably the most ‘straightahead’ record I’ve done since my first one, Centric,” and laughingly adds, “maybe not by any normal standards of ‘straightahead!'” After playing extensively with the quartet, Robbins adapted some of his earlier repertoire for this group. Live in Basel revisits two tunes from Waits and Measures (Playscape, 2006): “There There,” which begins with swirling strings before open snare and toms, along with Robbins’ breathy, meditative alto, announce the theme; and the disjointedly funky “Inkhead,” whose interlocking parts benefit from the clarity of this quartet setting. Robbins also wrote new pieces for the quartet he describes as “messages of optimism.” The opening “Eliotsong” is dedicated to keyboardist Eliot Cardinaux, with Brow’s kinetic breakbeat alternately locking into and dancing around Jermyn’s bassline. Ploug’s subtly effected guitar provides a perfect foil for Robbins’ focused and controlled alto tone. “Hope Tober,” written for guitarist Adam Tober, closes the set with anthemic quality: a soaring melody from Robbins, chiming guitar from Ploug, and the rock solid foundation of Jermyn and Brow, with a brief flurry of freedom reminiscent of Robbins’ Unnamed Quartet. The arc of the set, and echoed within each piece, is expansive and powerful.
An acclaimed saxophonist and composer, Robbins counts similarly polyglot improvisers and composers like John Zorn, Craig Taborn and Mark Dresser among his colleagues. A native of Andover, Massachusetts, he graduated from New England Conservatory where he studied with George Garzone, George Russell and Paul Bley, among others. Bley calls Robbins “a real force” in jazz. Following his studies, he moved to Brooklyn in 2002 where he quickly became “a welcome presence on the creative music scene” (Time Out New York). He has received grants from Chamber Music America to pursue his compositional endeavors. Live in Basel is a testament to Robbins’ artistic breadth. “I don’t want to commit to any one stylistic approach,” he says, “because one is not inherently better than any other. What really matters is the execution.” Fittingly, while the Transatlantic Quartet will give CD release concerts in Europe in spring 2012, the New York album release event will also serve as the launch of a new group, the Reactance Quartet.
Pete Robbins // Upcoming Shows:
Friday January 20 – Album release concert at Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
Saturday January 21 – Album release concert at Radio Bean, Burlington, Vt
Saturday February 11 – Album release concert at Cornelia Street Cafe (w/ Vijay Iyer, Eivind Opsvik, Tyshawn Sorey)
..:: SOURCE: Fully Altered Media ::..