(Emanem)

This quartet’s name derives from the fact that none of the involved parties has ever been to the outer London suburb of Barkingside. If this means something in particular or it’s some sort of secret code we really don’t know. This aside, the four companions were recorded in different occasions – the first two tracks in Cambridge, 2006, the third in 2007 at the Freedom of the City festival. All three improvisations contain large doses of chiaroscuro interplay, with rare moments of clamour; basically, they sound like seamed preludes and interludes with ample spaces given to single instrumentalists to demonstrate a prowess that goes beyond the collective homogeneity. Alex Ward’s clarinet timbre is both matter-of-factly and highly refined, his control of nuances total during interchanges and soliloquies demonstrating that the meaning of “note squandering” is unknown to him. Pianist Alexander Hawkins introduces a half-formal, half-unchained method of choosing colours, resulting in several pictures of nervous positivity, still devoid of hypertensive gestures. The orthodoxy factor is taken care of too, courtesy of double bassist Dominic Lash whose work on the instrument is refreshingly snappy but, at the same time, almost sartorial in choosing links and connections. Paul May is the tickler of the group, always suggesting new frames which he promptly disintegrates, sprouting rhythmic concepts one after another with youthful enthusiasm. An ensemble that leaves a positive impression without actually doing nothing truly astounding. That speaks volumes.

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