Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Three Reviews for Indigo Kid


Indigo Kid is the debut, one heckuva debut, by the British guitarist Dan Messore, fronting one heckuva quartet. Indigo Kid comprises two parts new talent and two parts young veterans. New talent is represented by Messore and drummer Gethlin Jones, experience by tenor saxophonist Iain Ballamy and bassist Tim Harries.
On this showing, Messore sounds like a contender-in-waiting for Pat Metheny's mantle. His sound is bright and warm, his playing lyrical and flowing, he knows how to use space, and he has technique to spare. He comes on remarkably like Metheny on his straight-ahead trio outings Day Trip (2008), Tokyo Day Trip (2008) and Question and Answer (1989) (all Nonesuch). Like Metheny's music, Messore's is a celebration of light and beauty, rather than an exploration of darker forces.
Not that Messore is a die-stamped Metheny clone. There are echoes of folk-rock guitarists such as John Fahey, Jon Renbourn and Bert Jansch in his harmonization. And neither isIndigo Kid indistinguishable from Metheny's trio and quartet outings; the input of Iain Ballamy—who produced and arranged in addition to playing—ensures a different character. The saxophonist, who emerged as part of the adventurous British big band Loose Tubes in the mid-1980s, and is best known today for his work with the Anglo-Norwegian jazz-electronica group Food, shares the spotlight with Messore on most tracks. Ballamy's far-ranging style sits well with the folk-rock resonances in Messore's music.
The other young veteran in the quartet, Tim Harries, played alongside Ballamy in drummer Bill Bruford's Earthworks from 1989 to 1993—both are featured on the Earthworks albumsDig? (1989), All Heaven Broke Loose (1991) and Stamping Ground (1994), all on the EG label—while also (and here comes another folk-rock strand) being a member of Steeleye Span, which he left in 2001. Since then, Harries' credits include ex-Loose Tube drummer Martin France's Spin Marvel (2006) and The Reluctantly Politicised Mr James (2010), both on Edition Records, and "magickal" storyteller and graphic artist Alan Moore's audio disc Angel Passage(Megaphon, 2008).
The fourth member of the group, Gethlin Jones, studied with Messore at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. He has worked with another talented young British guitarist,Cameron Pierre, and with trumpeter Steve Waterman, a member of Messore's other band, Lacuna Quintet, which will debut in June 2012 with the album Talk on the Step, also on Babel.
All but one of the tunes here are Messore originals. Like his playing, they reveal Metheny's influence, and echoes, too, of Bill Frisell. Most of his writing, Messore says, comes as a response to nature and landscape. The younger guitarist's melodies do not evoke the wide-open spaces of Frisell's Americana, but they do frequently suggest natural environments (and, on "Mr Lepard," the misty-mountain vibe of Led Zeppelin in its quieter moments). There are twists: "Ode to Gilly" has some of the spikey, metropolitan air ofThelonious Monk's work, and "New Man New Place" is bossa nova-based. The only non-original, George Gershwin's "The Man I Love," is given a gorgeous reading.
Messore is young, this is his first album, and he has yet fully to put his own stamp on the influences in his playing, but Indigo Kid is the business. Highly auspicious.

Tracks: First Light; Waitent Wantant; Mr Lepard; New Man New Place; Indigo Kid; Pages to a Friend; One to Gilly; The Man I Love; Bioluminescence.
Personnel: Dan Messore: guitar; Iain Ballamy: tenor saxophone; Tim Harries: bass; Gethin Jones: drums.

‘An auspicious debut from guitarist Dan Messore and some accomplished colleagues’.

10/4/ 2012

Guitar and tenor saxophone provide, in the right hands (and mouth), a rich palette of sounds. Because that particular horn can be cheerfully light as well as broodingly low, lending tonal depth without being overly bulky, and the string instrument can be both delicate and incisive, their union has scope for sensual, fluid lyricism that retains ballast.
In other words, music that is sharply gentle rather than sleepily genteel. It is a fine line, but guitarist-composer-bandleader Dan Messore, a 2006 graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama who has also played with Kevin Figes and Trish Clowes, adroitly stays on the right side of it on this auspicious debut. Iain Bellamy the tenor saxophonist role, so Messore has a frontline partner of considerable experience who brings the requisite poise and drive to make this kind of endeavour work.
Ballamy’s breezy, airy timbre is perfect for the floating character of many of the melodies; yet he hardens his sound on occasion, which is important for moments when the guitar chords are wiry and not so note-heavy. The music doesn't feel invertebrate as a result. Double bassist Tim Harries and drummer Gethin Jones reinforce this balance, hovering right between a mellow simmer of swing and straighter folk-blues rhythms to good effect.
Messore puts his stamp on the set with some authority though, moving from woozy yet always understated pitch bends or distortions √† la Bill Frisell to the kind of rapier-like single note solos that have a concision that is sometimes missing in younger musicians gripped by an impulse to play rather than think and serve the story of the song. With dreamy, hazy themes being the order of the day it’s fair to quote names like Pat Metheny the aforesaid Frisell as references, but the seam of jazz Messore is mining goes further back to such as Charlie Byrd and Jim Hall.
Messore invites us to imagine that grand old guitarist deconstructing Greensleeves with  warne Marsh rather than Sonny Rollins. Talking of colours, Indigo is an apt name for Messore’s dark subtleties – but his future is bright.



The cow-poke on the sleeve and the album title suggests that this is some kind of tribute to the American West and maybe it is. However, given the personnel, unsurprisingly, this is no clip-clopping along c & w hoe-down. The feeling instead is one of vastness, of open spaces, rolling plains. A wayfaring stranger venturing into the unknown. The musicians blaze their own trails with respect and acknowledgement of each other's space without building fences.
Ballaimy's tenor sax, melodic yet probing as if in wonderment of his environment. A picture may be worth a thousand words but music is surely worth a thousand pictures? His solo on Gershwin's The Man I Love - the only non-original - is musical poetry.
The final track Bioluminescence brings the setting sun and the conclusion of a highly evocative album
Composer and guitarist Messore solos effectively in a manner that brought Bill Frissell to mind which is praise indeed although the young musician is no copyist.
Indigo Kid isn’t solely a western music exercise, and his (Messore's) search for cultural roots and their meaning stretches further afield. “Much of my composition comes as a response to nature and surroundings,” says Messore. “I have travelled a fair amount, whilst doing so I always try to get off the beaten track: hitching, sleeping out, working locally. I am attempting to create music that has a strong sense of landscape with improvisation”. On the way he has looked to Africa and its folk music, especially inspired by the gentle rootsy jazz guitar of the unique Benin-born NY-based star Lionel Loueke. And to Brazil, the great Hermeto Pascoal being a subtle but pervasive influence throughout the album. But it’s the accessible combination of all these lyrical song-like forms and deeply rooted improv aesthetics that appear throughout these sensual and very striking compositions that this highly gifted guitarist has recorded for his band debut Indigo Kid.

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