So, who is Matt Ridley? Matt began his musical journey on piano, aged six. By his mid-teens, he gravitated towards bass guitar, and was gigging professionally at 19years old. In 2001, he enrolled at Trinity College of Music, and it was there that he began learning the double bass. Matt performed his final recital entirely on this instrument and, upon graduating with a BMus honours degree in Jazz Studies, he was awarded the Trinity College of Music ‘Friends in New York’ award. Matt has also made a comprehensive study of classical music under the tutelage of LSO bassist Jani Pensola and, in 2017, Matt won a Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music diploma in classical double bass.
Matt’s forthcoming album release The Antidote has him playing bass in a quintet along with Alex Hitchcock on saxes; Ant Law playing guitar; Tom Hewson at the piano and keyboards; and Marc Michel on drums. The album is made up of five stand-alone tracks and a suite in four parts. The Antidote has a playing time of a little under one hour or sixty minutes of you prefer.
‘Thalo Blue’ starts with a simple piano introduction before the sound fills out with the introduction of bowed bass and keyboards with a ripple of cymbal from Marc Michel. The tune then moves to harder-edged rock sound tempered with the jazz toned saxophone of Alex Hitchcock. This is a multi-layered sound that has elements of rock, jazz, and classical music that keep the listener guessing as to which way the tune will go next. ‘The Minotaur’ opens in a contemporary jazz style that is maintained throughout the tune. There is a strong melodic line which each of the musicians picks up in turn and moves on to the next player. I particularly enjoyed the pizzicato playing of Matt Ridley on bass, and the drumming of Marc Michel that underpinned the tune throughout.
‘Ebb and Flow’ has a wonderful piano opening from Tom Hewson supplemented by the bowed bass of Matt Ridley. Alex Hitchcock’s sax solo matches the track’s title with delightful ebb and flow before Ant Law takes over with a terrifically played guitar solo. The sax and piano bring down the intensity of the piece to allow the tune to come to a milder tempered end. ‘Yardeville’ shows off the folkier element of Matt Ridley’s writing with a lyrical sax sound from Alex augmented by the piano lines of Tom and drumming of Marc. I enjoyed the way this tune played out and began to understand how Matt blends different musical influences and styles to produce a coherent whole that, for me, works well.
’Infant Eyes’ (a Wayne Shorter number) is the shortest track on the album and the last before the album moves on to the four-part suite. This tune belongs, primarily, to Ant Law with the support of Matt Ridley and Marc Michel. ‘Infant Eyes’ is a gentle repeating phrase that brings the first part of this album to a calming conclusion.
‘Gautoma’ opens the suite with its punchy melody, percussive then expressive piano styling, and is overlaid with some wonderful sax sounds from Alex Hitchcock. The suite then gives way to ‘Stranger Things’ and its bass line opening which is then picked up by the piano of Tom Hewson, then the sax before morphing into the rockier edged sound of Ant Law on guitar. ‘Adagio for the Fallen Stars’ mellows out the suite considerably with beautiful full tone of Alex Hitchcock on sax. This is a well-paced movement that sets up the finale nicely. ‘Finale’ is the last chance that the musicians have to show their considerable skills and show them they do. Drummer Marc Michel does not get an opportunity for a solo but his playing throughout the suite, and indeed the whole album, is an exemplar of melodic drumming that does nothing to detract from the playing of those around him but adds so much to the overall sound of that which is being played. The four movement suite works well and ‘Finale’ is an absorbing end to an intriguing, sometimes challenging, album that should bring this talented bass player and composer to the attention of a wider audience.
Matt describes his inspiration for the music:
I spent a long time reflecting on musical culture in the UK, and my own identity and relationship with all of the different music that I have encountered over 15+years of being a professional bassist. When it came down to it, I concluded that what the English do really well, is ROCK, FOLK, and CLASSICAL music. I realised that, deep down, I’ve always wanted to ROCK OUT, to be wild and free, to fly unhindered and answerable to no-one. So I set out creating my own music, that would combine ‘thinking man’s’ Rock music (Radiohead/Beatles…without the posturing and banal dumbing-down which is inevitable in more commercial pop music), with Jazz improvisation (without falling foul of pretentious self-indulgence), simple, memorable, Folky melodies, and the detail, sensitivity, and emotional depth of Classical music.
The result is The Antidote, remarkable for its depth, integrity, and refreshing insistence on strong melodic and thematic material
1. Thalo Blue – 8:39 2. The Minotaur – 8:23 3. Ebb and Flow 8:12 4. Yardeville 7:35 5. Infant Eyes 2:52 SUITE 6. Pt I: Gautoma – 5:11 7. Pt II: Stranger Things 5:25 8. Pt III: Adagio for the Fallen Stars 4:419. Pt IV: Finale 7:26
All tracks written by Matt Ridley except ‘Infant Eyes’ written by Wayne Shorter.
The album is produced by Matt Ridley.
The Antidote is released on Ubuntu Music label. Release date 23 July, 2021.