Presents MANTIS: The Music of Drew Menzies
I first heard the pairing of string quartet with jazz quartet for a “Double Quartet” as part of a double Max Roach CD; one of the formative albums in my life. Though the music on this CD is less frantic I can’t help but think of the Roach album; of that pairing. I assume it was one of the crucial antecedents for the work Reuben Bradley and Andrew Menzies planned.
Created as a tribute to Drew Menzies – in honour of his life and compositions – Bradley arranged these pieces (with string arrangement assistance from the redoubtable John Psathas) – the result, featuring the New Zealand String Quartet in collaboration with a Bradley-led quartet (James Illingworth, Piano; Matt Penman, double bass; Roger Manins, tenor saxophone) – is one of the finest jazz sets I’ve heard in a long while.
It builds too on Bradley’s Resonator which showed his chops as player, leader, arranger, composer. As with that album MANTIS is in part a showcase for Bradley’s commitment to extending the role of jazz drummer – and from there extending the role of jazz.
This is concert music with contemplative classical ballads and European folk song sitting inside it; there’s hints of post-bop and post-modern. They are open-ended compositions that show Menzies’ skill and interest in both jazz and classical playing and composition. These versions allow space for individuals to shine (Illingworth’s lovely lilting piano cascades on I’ve Got Nothing Good To Say for example; where in fact he has plenty of good to say and so many good ways to show how he can say it).
The profits from the sale of this album go directly to the Drew Menzies Memorial Scholarship for young New Zealand bass players.
The album will be recreated as part of Wellington’s 2013 Jazz Festival.
It’s a stunning record – and I’m looking forward to the concert.