File this album under a good listen.

Lenox Music Lenox003

Martin Hallmark (piano); Kevin Flanagan (tenor sax); Tiago Coimbra (bass); Oscar Reynolds (drums)

Recorded Alpheton New Maltings, Suffolk 21-23 August 2023

A jazz quartet called Q3? Well, apparently the band started out as a trio, but rather than change the name to Q4, they stuck with the original name. This is the third album from the Cambridge-based jazz band and pianist Martin Hallmark has composed all ten tunes; the album’s running time is 60 minutes.

The CD is well packaged, in a glossy, double fold-out digipak and a stunning cover design composed of swirling leaves (replicated on the disc label) by Jules Harley. The album title incidentally, refers to a species of lichen which lives at the intersection of land and sea.

In the album liner notes, Hallmark says that most of the music was composed during the Covid-19 pandemic, although it is not a lock down album. Two pieces are dedicated to family members, one to Chick Corea (Hallmark studied under him) and another is inspired by Chopin. American-born saxophonist Kevin Flanagan is certainly a versatile player, having played with Jools Holland, BB King and members from Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and The Sex Pistols. Brazilian-born bassist Tiago Coimbra has played with Hiromi, Simon Phillips and Cleveland Watkiss. Cambridge-based drummer Oscar Reynolds is a member of the Phil Stevens Trio.

The midtempo ‘Through the Clouds’ (dedicated to an uncle who died during the Second World War, aged 25) starts with the breezy sound of Flanagan’s tenor sax. It’s a bright, polished piece, and Corea’s influence can be heard in Hallmark’s graceful solo. Flangan is an impressive player, with superb tone and feeling; his phrasing during his solo brings to mind the late Michael Brecker. Coimbra plays a jazz-funk solo, evoking the sound of Marcus Miller and the late Victor Bailey. These comparisons are a compliment and not a criticism: if you’re going to be inspired by another musician why not make it an outstanding one?

‘Odyssey’ is dedicated to Chick Corea and played as a trio. It starts with a hammering piano riff, before settling into a midtempo tune with a Latin feel and a syncopated groove. The ballad ‘Emerald Eyes’ (dedicated to Hallmark’s wife) drifts along like a slow-moving cloud, led by Flanagan’s seductive saxophone lines. ‘Nomads’ is a jazz-funk tune and my favourite, with Flanagan channelling his Michael Brecker mode and Coimbra starting off an exciting bass solo with flamenco-like flourishes. There’s a neat transition after the bass solo, whereby Hallmark’s piano solo seamlessly switches to a ballad section before the tempo is turned up again.

‘Nocturn,’ a sparse, delicate ballad, was inspired by Chopin, and Reynolds uses brushes on this number. The title track has an intriguing structure, alternating between jazz-swing and the avant-garde. It reminded me of Miles Davis’s version of ‘My Man’s Gone Now,’ on the We Want Miles album, which switches between ballad and jazz-swing. Hallmark plays a quirky piano vamp and Flanagan plays over it on tenor sax. ‘Rondo di Girulata’ starts with a long solo piano intro, before settling down into a midtempo tune with a nice melody. ‘A Good Day For Breathing’ (great title!) is a swinging number as Coimbra lays down a walking bass line and plays a solid bass solo. ‘Turnaround Time’ is another tune with a strong melody, and which puts Flanagan’s sax to the fore, playing the song’s theme with panache. Hallmark plays a purely supportive role on this number, comping while saxophonist, bassist and drummer all deliver solos. The aptly titled final number ‘Postlude’ is performed as a trio and showcases Hallmark’s lightness of touch on this gentle ballad. File this album under a good listen.