Tom Riviere: bass; Steve Hanley: drums; Kim Macari: trumpet; Riley Stone-Lonergan: tenor saxophone
Recorded 13th and14th February 2020 by Tim Thomas at Swan Studios
Three albums into their collaboration, this latest release from the Family Band quartet bristles and sparkles with energy. Having dispensed with a chordal instrument, the onus is on the trumpet / sax frontline is to define the harmonic structure of each piece. That they do this so effortlessly, frees up space for bass to create melodic flights and the drums to harry the pieces as they loop with wild abandon.
Macari’s ‘Deft but bereft’, track 4, opens with a distorted trumpet voluntary that announces a 1950s American Cold War radio broadcast that explains how ‘you are the target’. Above this, the quartet play a sort of scraggly, sarcastic ragtime which stops and starts in ironic commentary of the spoken word but then builds in panic and alarm.
The message of the piece, of history repeating itself (perhaps, in Marx’s terms ‘first as tragedy and then as farce’), has particular echoes as we watch the war unfold in Ukraine. This is protest music that carries many meanings and evokes many responses.
Hanley’s ‘One road’, track 7, provides a setting for Macari’s word ‘When they ask us what did you do what will we say…?’ Here the sense of confused anger and regret that was apparent in ‘Deft but bereft’ is put into words.As the piece develops, so the musical accompaniment becomes increasingly mournful, with only the drums attempting to burst through the sense of sadness and regret. A very powerful and moving piece.
Elsewhere, the quartet’s playing has an ebullient tension that celebrates the music styles that developed from the late 1960s protest jazz in a blending of hard bop and free jazz – of course, channelled from the United States of the mid Twentieth Century to Doncaster of the Twenty First Century.
But in a world which is equally beset by fractures and uncertainties, by enmity and the fear of war, by a sense helpless by-standing in the face of tragedies and by a hope for a better world to come. Or, perhaps, by a sense that the world come has already been failed by our inaction.
Reviewed by Chris Baber