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Lluis Mather quartet reviewed at Cheltenham Jazz festival 2010


It is now customary for the winner of Birmingham Conservatoire’s Dave Holland Prize to open the Pillar Room programme on the last day of the festival. Holland has never forgotten his Midlands roots and continues to support jazz education at the Conservatoire and this slot has delivered some memorable performances over the years from pianist Dan Nicholls,drummer John Randall and others.

I’d seen tenor saxophonist Mather earlier in the year at the Harmonic Festival in Birmingham (see reviews elsewhere on this site) where he played as a sideman with both the Ben Markland Quintet and Chris Mapp’s Gambol. I was impressed by Mather’s feathery, lyrical tone on the instrument. He’s a final year student at the Conservatoire but plays with an unhurried maturity beyond his tender years.

This Cheltenham performance also featured Mather the composer as his young band consisting of guitarist Dave Greatrex, double bassist Rob Anstey and drummer Jim Bashford delivered a programme of Mather originals that revealed his potential as a writer.

The quartet began with “Dissention” which introduced the Frisell like sound of Greatrex’s guitar alongside Mather’s tenor. There’s a similarity between Mather’s playing and that of Fly saxophonist Mark Turner. Both are quietly eloquent players who make their musical statements without recourse to bombast or bluster. Turner was due to give a master class at the Conservatoire in the week following the Festival and I can imagine young Mr Mather being first in the queue to pick up some tips from the master. Here Mather shared the soloing duties with Greatrex and Anstey above Bashford’s floating drum pulse.

“Ratcliffe’s Palm” was dedicated to pianist/organist Matt Ratcliffe, a fellow Birmingham student, and divided the group into two duos with Mather engaging in gentle dialogue with drummer Bashford, the latter deploying soft head mallets before handing on to the duo of Greatrex and Anstey.

“Catch It, Bin It, Kill It” added a greater air of urgency to the proceedings with Mather soloing powerfully and climactically and with Bashford also featuring forcefully. The lively, darting runs of “Cotes Du Rhone Village” (Mather is something of a wine expert) maintained the momentum and included an abstract central section, a powerful solo from Greatrex and Mather’s most full on playing thus far.

The next tune was unannounced but had an anthemic quality with Mather’s sax snaking seductively over Greatrex’s guitar vamp. The two were to team up again on the closing “My Washing Line” with Mather soloing over Greatrex’s circling guitar motif. Earlier the excellent Anstey had opened the tune at the bass and the later duet between Anstey and Greatrex was also a highlight.

This had been an important gig for Mather and on the whole the young saxophonist acquitted himself well. He’s already a distinctive soloist and although some of his themes were not particularly memorable he also shows promise as a writer. The set would have benefited from a wider emotional and dynamic range- “Cotes Du Rhone” was probably the pick of the pieces and the broadest in scope- but Lluis Mather is an emerging talent and well worth keeping an eye on.

Apart from his sideman work he also runs another band Noose, a bassless quartet featuring singer Holly Thomas, pianist Matt Ratcliffe and drummer Euan Palmer.

from thejazzmann.com

© Robert Anstey 2012