Immaculately conceived and performed a superb album that will hopefully raise the profile of this excellent young quartet.

AAB Records

Will Barnes (guitar); Jack Gonsalez (piano); Clovis Phillips (bass); James Batten (drums)

“Source of the Severn” is a delightfully evocative album from the Will Barnes Quartet who seem to have appeared out of nowhere. This, of course, not literally the case and guitarist Will Barnes has been honing his craft from his Mid Wales base for a number of years. An eclectic musician he grew up listening to Black Sabbath, Donovan, Pavarotti and Kate Buh before getting a taste for Pat Metheny, Django Reinhardt and Jim Hall among others.

He toured and recorded in a many different musical guises, but here the focus is firmly on a traditional jazz quartet albeit with a contemporary feel. Like all the best jazz the music, the quartet draw from the history of the music, and respectful of the tradition are able to forge something uniquely their own.

Bebop is the order of the day with this charming record brim-full of great ideas and the chops to make them count. If there are echoes of Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery and Pat Metheny in the music, the overriding presence is that of the quartet a whole.

There is a definite group sound evolving here and will the guitarist has written all but one of the tunes, he does not seek to dominate either in his playing or role within the quartet. Plenty of space is given to all, and this decision is borne out in the quality of the soloing from each of the four musicians.

The music draws inspiration from the beautiful mid-Wales landscape, and the music has a nice open feel about it and album gets off to a spritely start with “The Mad March Hare” that it simply top drawer jazz. Swinging mightily there are particularly fine solos from Barnes and pianist Jack Gonsalez, and this is matched by the punchy theme of “Lle Mae Trefaldwyn”.

Knowing how to pace a set, the guitarist also writes a lovely ballad or two. The first is “Up on the Hill” that has excellent support form bassist Clovis Phillips that allow the solos of both guitarist and pianist to flow before he takes his own moment in the spotlight.

The other fine ballad is “An Echo of Spring” in which the melody unfolds at a languid pace from Barnes with some excellent counterpoint from the double bass. The two instruments blend so well together, and this continues as guitar gives way to the piano and the story unfolds over the delicate brushwork from James Batten at the drums.

There is a solid groove over which “Marchia Wallia” unfolds, and “Passing Time” gets back to a real swinging feel with a Charlie Parker reference thrown in for good measure. This superb recording closes with the title track, and this probably shows the influence of Pat Metheny on Barnes. Not so much in the playing, but in the writing that is beautifully constructed from beginning to end.

Available digitally the best way to enjoy this music is on the limited-edition vinyl pressing. A double album that also features the magnificent artwork of Erin Hughes with a painting for each of the compositions on the album.

Immaculately conceived and performed a superb album that will hopefully raise the profile of this excellent young quartet.