Andrew Bain is a truly transatlantic talent, dividing his time between Manhattan and Birmingham UK, with an impressive list of musical and educational attainments behind him. Tonight he's here with his all-American quartet to showcase a brand new opus, underpinned by some weighty philosophical ideas borrowed from a book entitled The Fierce Urgency Of Now that links ideas of musical improvisation to struggles for social change. 'Fierce Urgency' is a perfect description of the opening number – an extended, surgingly romantic rubato with George Colligan's rippling piano and Bain's restless drumming maintaining an exhausting intensity, exhorting Jon Irabagon's saxophone to ever greater heights over Michael Janisch's resonant bowed bass. It's a mixture of the free and the lyrical that recalls Jarrett's American quartet of the 1970s. Then there's a typically wide-ranging solo excursion from Janisch, from which emerges a staccato 7/8 line, that doesn't seem to truly settle until the band hit a fat 4/4 swing and Colligan takes off on a solo of seemingly limitless power and inventiveness. Irabagon shows why he's been constantly topping polls in the US – unfazed by the fastest tempo, slightly ahead of the beat, he can deliver a torrent of the most contemporary language, but tempers it with an attractive mellowness lurking within his diamond-hard, centered tone.
We're being treated to musical interpretations of the seven necessary aspects of embodied hope, as laid down by the guys behind the Fierce Urgency book, and the next offering is another seven metre – a funk with a blues-inflected line reminiscent of Eddie Harris. It's smoking hot solos all round on this one as it breaks into a swinging extended-blues form, but Janisch probably takes the laurels for a staggeringly virtuosic display that leaves no part of the fingerboard unexplored. 'Hope' itself is a celebratory, uplifting melody, developing from a single pulsing note. Bain, his lanky form splayed behind the kit, abandons himself completely to the music, eyes closed and head thrust forward, the picture of transported absorption. His playing is powerful and instantly responsive, and he matches his bandmates in the pinpoint rhythmic accuracy for which New York players are renowned. There's a certain gawky awkwardness to his musical persona – it's probably fair to say that he's not really a groove guy, but the sheer energy of his polyrhythmic flow keeps the music surging forwards.
The second set offers us 'Surprise", a thrilling breakneck-speed slice of swing with Irabagon and Colligan vying for solo honours with superb performances, and 'Listening', a real tour de force going from eerie free explorations to latin-tinged free-bop and some high-energy drum trades. This is an outstanding band with seemingly bottomless reserves of energy and excitement and a strong concept driving the leader – the upcoming recording session should yield some explosive results.
– Eddie Myer