a band that is about cohesive interplay that comes to musicians who carefully listen to each other.
TPR Records TPR-015 – Available from Bandcamp
Duncan Hopkins (Bass), Reg Schwager CM (Guitar), Ted Quinlan (Guitar), Michel Lambert (Drums)
Recorded July 26, 2022
I confess that I have never been a big fan of jazz guitar. I’ve listened to many recordings, but none have made it into my regular rotation. But this two-guitar band and this album changed my mind.
Neither of the guitarists comes to the recording with flashy or acrobatic solos. Instead, this is a band that is about cohesive interplay that comes to musicians who carefully listen to each other.
The band is led by the noted bassist and composer Duncan Hopkins. “Who are You?” consists of compositions by Duncan’s mentor, Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014). One of the eight compositions was written by Hopkins and forms part of the St. Catharines Suite that closes the album.
Hopkins has had a 30+ year jazz career playing with Bobo Stenson, Scott Hamilton, Lester Bowie, John Hicks, and Sam Rivers, to name a few. Hopkins has appeared on over fifty albums.
This is Hopkin’s seventh album as a leader and the first to feature another composer. Hopkins formed this band during the pandemic. All four of the bandmates have worked with Kenny Wheeler at one point or another.
The band consists of bass, two stellar guitarists, and a very talented drummer. Reg Schwager was named Guitarist of the Year at the National Jazz Awards four years in a row (2005–08) and was made a Member of the Order of Canada (C M) in 2021.
Ted Quinlan, the other guitarist, is a Juno-nominated artist and has appeared on several Juno-winning recordings as well as playing on over one hundred albums. Drummer and accomplished composer Michel Lambert has played with Gary Burton, Dewey Redman, Barre Phillips, and Paul Bley, to name a few. Michel comes from a family steeped in classical music.
Although each of the musicians leads bands and records on their own, their egos are sublimated on this “live in the studio” recording. The interplay of the guitars is the real gem of this record – as if the two guitarists shared one mind.
In the opening selection, “Who are you?” one immediately notices Hopkins’s bass lines and his virtuosity. I am reminded of Scott La Faro of Bill Evans Trio fame. The drums subtly move the music along. The two-guitar approach – one guitarist leads while the other accompanies and embellishes sets the tone for the album.
The second selection, “Foxy Trot”, has more subtly intertwined guitars with the lead changing hands. The recording is precise and clear with high production values.
The St. Catharines Suite is in three parts and closes out the recording. The first part, “Montebello” was written by Hopkins. The minimal tasteful drumming along with thesecond guitar make the bass and lead guitar stand out. “Montebello” takes its name from a park where Hopkins and Wheeler would meet. In the second part, “Kitts”, the guitars play cascading notes together. The third and last part, “Salina Street” (the street where they would walk on the way to the local park, Montebello) has more unison guitar playing with a slight deconstruction at the end.
This recording is devoid of fast musical breaks, loud sustained guitars, and typical guitar solos. It substitutes ensemble playing, low-key drumming, formidable bass playing, and two tasteful guitarists.
The mix of the recording is excellent with all of the instruments well balanced. “Who are You?” is such a pleasant, melodic journey that is now on regular rotation.