Tetra is both the name of the album and of this working quartet which has seen Midlands-born saxophonist Julian Argüelles (he cut his teeth with Walsall Jazz Orchestra) enlist musicians from a younger generation: Kit Downes on piano, Sam Lasserson on double bass and James Maddren on drums.
The titles may be mostly united in their word play – Hugger Mugger, Hocus Pocus and Nitty Gritty among them – but the moods are much more varied.
The short Hugger Mugger, with the leader adding a little celeste to the piano and bass, acts as an introduction to what is ostensibly a linked suite of tunes, each segueing elegantly into the next. The slow-build urgency using a simple bass pulse on Yada Yada and the slowly stated melody and swirling saxophone lines reminded me a little of Keith Jarrett’s European quartet recordings.
The links to Argüelles’s family lineage in the Iberian peninsula have always been there in his music along with a certain English sensibility (his album with strings, As Above So Below, was particularly English to my ears). Here there is a Portuguese intensity to the flavour of Hurley Burley – and it is in that fine line of Argüelles pieces which mixes intricacy of line with great energy that stretches right back to his Octet tune Dijon & Nectarine Sorbet. Then there is a lyrical Spanish folksong feel to Asturias.
Iron Pyrite, the stormy album closer, shows the band at its most freewheeling and wild.
Argüelles’ distinctive saxophone improvisations sit very well above the sensitive and stirring accompaniment of the trio, and all the musicians get to make their mark. It’s a very fine album indeed, characterised by sophisticated and heartfelt compositions which then urge similarly energised playing. I very much hope this band continues and develops – it sounds like it has an important and fruitful future.
Tetra has previously played out and is doing so again with the opening gig of their UK tour at The Sage, Gateshead, this evening. Further dates are The Spotted Dog in Birmingham tomorrow, York on Thursday, Cardiff on Friday, Southampton on Saturday, and on to Hastings, Liverpool, Nottingham, Brighton and London in November.
There is a Q&A with Julian here.
Full details of the album and the tour dates are here.
Categories: CD review