ARQ – Short Stories
Diane McLoughlin (tenor/saxes); Steve Lodder (piano); Deirdre Cartwright (guitar); Alison Rayner (bass); Buster Birch (drums).(Review by Lance).Lance Liddel, Bebop Spoken Here Oct 2019
ARQ [Alison Rayner Quintet] played a knockout gig at the Globe Jazz Bar, in Newcastle last year (Nov. 22) – as they would riding high, as they were, upon their triumph at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards earlier. I marked that one down as one of my Gigs of the Year and this, their latest album, I’m pleased to report is as exciting as their two previous albums – maybe more so.
Eight tracks: 5 by leader Rayner and 1 each by McLoughlin, Cartwright and Lodder. Birch doesn’t get to show his compositional skills but McLoughlin’s Buster Breaks a Beat was composed as a feature for the drummer who rises to the occasion experimenting with, I quote, broken beats, funk and retro dance music. It’s a delightful piece that captivated me from the start. Despite the title, it’s not your normal hit everything in sight drum solo but rather an exploration in unusual rhythms all held together by outstanding solos from guitar, tenor and piano underlined by Rayner paving the way for Buster to break beats.
Two of Rayner’s 5 are pieces composed and inspired by the loss of close friends: There is a Crack in Everything (for her niece Pippa Handley) and ABraw Boy (for Craig Handley, a young Scottish photographer who died aged 23). The emotion and feeling of loss is poignantly expressed by the music.
Cartwright’s Life Lived Wide is also a piece of remembrance. Debbie Dickinson, described by Deirdre as ‘the seventh member of the Guest Stars’ – the band Cartwright and Rayner played in back in the 1980s – is given a less solemn tribute the music reflecting the fun that was so much a part of the band’s performances.
Lodder’s Seeing Around Corners is, for the most part, a jaunty jazz waltz that segues into a slower section with McLoughlin’s lyrical, probing soprano perhaps suggesting that you take care before you turn into that alley. Rayner’s dark bass solo adding to the step into the unknown.
Five outstanding musicians and eight evocative compositions make for an enjoyable listening experience whether you opt for CD, digital or vinyl.