A Couple Of Loose Torques With Nick Stephens And Jon Corbett

Bassist Nick Stephens’ Loose Torque imprint publishes fresh documents involving himself and his companions, typically improvised sessions – live or in the studio. The man is always so exquisite to regularly send me new releases. These two are not exactly “new”, though – but more will arrive soon and I’ll be here reviewing them, too (thanks, Nick!).


This incarnation of Dangerous Musics (originally started in 1987) included trumpeter Jon Corbett (here doubling on valve trombone) and percussionist Roger Turner. The record comprises five tracks recorded in Turner’s flat in 1991 and a 36-minute live set whose cassette was found “down the back of the sofa” by Corbett, date and venue unknown. The trio plays a sparkling, fizzling variety of scarcely regulated jazz characterized by an ever-present sense of humour, magnifying divertissement-based traits and excluding bad vibes completely. They can also bang quite heavily, but the preferred mood is one of deceiving breeziness which in reality hides a solid technical dexterity, appreciable even by the non-experts (such as my wife, who liked certain parts of this CD a lot, and definitely is not a fan of this kind of music). Corbett acts as the loquacious talker, his phrases often spikier than a porcupine yet at the same time so sweet to listen to; Stephens counters with humble savoir faire, ready to roar more aggressively when needed. Turner rolls atypically and splashes happily, maintaining persuasive methods of engaging the listeners while drumming at the opposite of what might be anticipated. Fresh, invigorating stuff without any counter indication.


Add Paul Dunmall (tenor sax and saxello) and Tony Marsh (drums) to the Corbett/Stephens duo and here’s The September Quartet. What Goes Around… contains fairly recent recordings (2006) for a somewhat less effervescent result, despite the presence of one of my favourite saxophonists. Although the quality of the playing is first-rate your scribe was not able to excessively celebrate for this, sniffing a little lack of involvement on several occasions – or maybe it was a smidgen of tiredness. The instrumental nuances and the overall adroitness are obviously estimable, but melodic novelty is what this listener was missing the most, implicit feasibilities and barely hinted deviations working only just at times. Dunmall and Corbett try reciprocal engagements repeatedly, with mixed results – sporadically absorbing (as in certain sections of “One Thing Leads To Another”) or merely normal. Stephens and Marsh possess class to spare, yet sometimes that’s not enough. The interplay remains absolutely intelligible throughout, which is a plus. So, what’s wrong, I ask myself. Nothing really “wrong” indeed, because these people produce serious music even in their lesser creative junctures; still, there are quite a few instances in which a tentativeness of sorts – almost bordering on uncertainty – about the direction to follow was perceived. This caused the enthusiasm level to dwindle time and again, various portions of the improvisations sounding more as an elegant kind of indecisive effort than crucially inventive. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be that way, after all. You know what? Better concentrate on the single instrumentalists as opposed to the collective playing. Absurd, but reasonably effective.

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