Dec 3 2012
The bird as metaphor in not uncommon when describing musicians or their music. Which specific aspect of the feathered creature gets referenced differs from moment to moment, but typically it’s just one.
On his newest release Live in Basel, the music of the Pete Robbins Transatlantic Quartet is the whole damn bird.
Your album personnel: Pete Robbins (alto sax), Mikkel Ploug (guitar), Simon Jermyn (electric bass), and Kevin Brow (drums).
Robbins talks the talk. Listen to opening track “Eliotsong.” He has a chirp-chirp-coo rhythmic pattern that is so infectious, and Robbins breaks into it immediately. It’s a warm and comforting sound. It makes it easy to buy into the album. It renders meaningless the concept of CDs and MP3s and speakers and the passing of time, and allows the listener to just interact with the music as if sitting there in the club when it was originally performed and recorded.
Robbins knows how to direct the flock. Listen to second track “There There.” Robbins has bassist Simon Jermyn lead with a solo, then in tandem with Mikkel Ploug’s guitar. Together, they create a raindrop serenity that leads immaculately into Robbins’ eventual entrance. It’s a delicate affair, made lively by the rapid strings of notes and made gentle in the graceful way Robbins delivers them.
Robbins knows how to nest a tune. Listen to third track “Inkhead.” It’s a nod to the groove, but has a dreamy wind-down of ambient guitar and bass.
Robbins knows about altitude. Listen to fourth track “The Quiet Space Left Behind.” It’s a slow gentle sway, a lullaby for baby saxophones. Robbins shifts between sudden climbs in elevation and languid soaring, often within the same solo. It allows him to accent melodies in ways that make them simultaneously dynamic and pretty.
Robbins knows how to take evasive action. Listen to fifth track “Hoi Polloi.” Listen to its herky-jerk bounce. Try to keep up with its rhythmic misdirects. The pronounced cough of Robbins sax draws one’s attention away from Jermyn’s prowling bass lines, and the stomp of Brow’s drums splits off from the slippery path of Ploug’s guitar.
Robbins knows how to land. Listen to album closer “Hope Tober.” Robbins plays rapid progressions that end with final extended notes, like a seagull flapping its wings furiously just before hitting the water’s surface and gliding to a halt.
With some artists, their sound is so inviting that I’d be content listening to them just tune their instrument while running through a practice book. Pete Robbins is one of those artists. Live in Basel really brings that fact home.
Released on Hate Laugh Music, which is Robbins’ self-made label.
Originally recorded at the Birdseye Jazz Club in Basel, Switzerland, and from musicians who call their home NYC (Robbins), Copenhagen (Ploug), Dublin/Brooklyn (Jermyn), and Toronto/Copenhagen (Brow). So, yeah, from all over the place.
I couldn’t find any audio to embed here, however, you can stream a whole bunch of Robbins’ music on his site. If you have an ad blocker, you might not be able to pull the music up.