Pete Robbins Transatlantic Quartet - Live in Basel (2012)


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Both Pete Robbins' band and music represents reaching across from one space to another. The aptly named Transatlantic Quartet consists of musicians on either side of the “pond," starting with the Massachusetts saxophonist Robbins joined by his Irish bassist Simon Jermyn living in NYC, Canadian drummer Kevin Brow living in Copenhagen and guitarist Mikkel Ploug who splits his time between his native Copenhagen and Berlin. The music does its own “reaching across," from advanced modern jazz to indie rock, but does so in a way where the complexities of the type of jazz his group is playing isn't lost at all. We've already examined some recent music by the dynamic performer, composer and bandleader, first for his forward-looking fusion effort Do The Hate Laugh Shimmy (2008) and then the live chronicle Silent Z Live (2010). That live record is now followed up by another one, using Robbins' North American/European quartet.

Recorded in Switzerland two years ago by a local radio station at the end of a tour, Live In Basel can't help but to draw comparisons to its immediate predecessor since they are both live recordings, and even one tune, “Eliotsong," appears on both. That's where you can really notice the difference in the mode of attack: the Silent Z band is more tightly wound, driven by precision and the polyrhythmic magic of Tyshawn Sorey. The Transatlantic Quartet tackles the same song with a more relaxed looseness, and relying more on the instinct that you get from playing 50+ dates together for about two years as this crew has.

“There There" and “Inkhead" both come from Waits And Measures (2006), and here again, the multinational combo stretches out more than on the original recordings (especially on the circuitous “Inkhead"), although to be fair, Waits and Measures was a studio album. The rest of the tunes are Robbins originals, too, but are on record for the first time. Of those I particularly like the meditative “The Quiet Space Left Behind" and the sly, unpredictable “Hoi Polloi." Robbins' celestial alto sax articulations highlight the former track while Jermyn's cagey electric bass sets the stage for the latter tune.

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