Jazz, Music, Reviews
Reviewed by Mandy Stefanakis, April 1st, 2014
There is a point some artists reach in their careers where they have such mastery of the technical and expressive capabilities of their craft that their work seems effortless. When this happens with all players in an ensemble it is really quite special. This, the third album from Anton Delecca’s Quartet, The Healer, embodies this point. Many of the tracks on the CD are originals by Delecca, but in a sense the group’s comfort with each other and with the music they play is equally displayed on their covers of the jazz standards Love for Sale and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. One takes an incredible risk in exploring songs which are the bread and butter of so many jazz outfits. To find in these enduring melodies some freshness, a new take, is a task indeed. But the improvisation around Rodgers and Hart’s standard, particularly the infectious musical sparring between Delecca on tenor sax and Luke Howard on piano, each driving the other, is delicious in its complexity and technical wisdom, joyous in its expressiveness and just so damned layback.
The Healer, a Delecca composition, is more in keeping in its mood and precious caring of time with Howard’s solo ventures and here he is allowed to savour simplicity and steadfastness in the extended opening before the piece is given some momentum through Daniel Farrugia’s sensitive drumming. The saxophone playing remains contained, following the melodic line and never breaking free, and you know that this is the point of the piece. Healing requires intent.
A complete juxtaposition to the title track is Hectic with its gorgeous syncopated bass riff played so empathically by Jonathan Zion who holds all the chaotic bits together throughout as Delecca, Farrugia and Howard have an enormous amount of fun going where they will. The way in which all these frantic, disparate parts come together is to be savoured. It is a stand-out track.
Though Delecca carries the fabulous modal melody on The Ark, the drumming and bass line are also a highlight of this gorgeous musical mosaic. It is another pivotal track. Zion wrote the other Eastern inspired composition, Sahadi, and holds down a moving drone as the melody is played out by Delecca and harmonised on piano. Farrugia effectively uses resonance on cymbals to enhance the sustenance of the piece. Of these calmer pieces Hokusai follows in the path of recurring themes in Delecca’s compositions and perhaps this is the reason it embraces such a beautifully comfortable sound. Delecca shines with his warm playing on this track.
However it is the works where all members of the group risk it all in the safe environment of each other’s musicality which are the most rewarding on the album for this listener. There is individual and collective dazzle on Icarus which, of course, burns throughout; never a chance of anyone falling to earth.
What shines through on The Healer is the respect the musicians have for each other’s musicality and the obvious joie de vivre they must encounter whenever they get together to share sound.