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Ochion Jewell - First Suite for Quartet (Mythology Records 2011) ****

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By Joe Higham

Ochion Jewell's CD titled First Suite For Quartet released on David Binney's Mythology label, seems already one step ahead of your 'average' first CD release that I often get to hear. With such a grandiose title I was curious to see if a through composed piece of 48 minutes could hold my attention, and especially for a first album! Many first albums often attempt negotiating tricky chord progressions combined with displays of multiple time signatures and out of control technique, making for awkward and often unsatisfactory listening. Here Jewell has written music which is immediately spiritual in outlook and mature in content. On 'First Suite For Quartet' there's a fine balance between 'improvised' music and structured improvisation, it seems the compositions are open ended enough to allow each player to express himself. The music is however not 'free jazz,' but certainly related to the modern school of 'melodic-free'(*)... if such a school exists yet (LOL). There's plenty of interesting directions taken within these tunes which keep you guessing, tempo changes, rubato sections, modal ostinato riffs, romantic melodies that gently unfold, and even some driving post Coltrane(ish) ideas giving the soloist time to blow hot and cold. The musicians work within the suite format letting the tunes unwind at their own pace, giving the music a sort of natural flow that links the sections together organically.

Ochion's arrangement of the material is central to the success of this project. The tunes are played in solo, duo, trio or quartet formats, with much attention given to dynamics, giving the music relief and so maintaining interest throughout. As for individual tunes there seems little need to comment as the music flows from the start with the opening soprano sax/piano duo through to a re-harmonised version of 'You are my Sunshine,' bringing the album to a close with a (lovely) piano trio! In fact the music is best heard as the suite that it is meant to be, with the tunes being carefully ordered to allow each tune/track to flow effortlessly into the next. Finally, I should add that the playing (from the musicians) on the album is impeccable, played with just the right amount of solo space, in/out playing, and no waisted notes.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes music that flows like a river.

(*) For 'Melodic-free' think of 'Dawn of Midi' meets Keith Jarrett's classic 4tet with Motion, Haden & Redman ... if you see what I mean?

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This story appears courtesy of Free Jazz by Stef Gijssels.
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