Modern Traditions – Brian Molley Quartet

Modern Traditions is the third studio album release from the Brian Molley Quartet and

features the quartet’s trademark blend of jazz and world music. Modern Traditions again showcases the group’s broad range of musical influences while demonstrating a deep respect for the jazz tradition. From straight-ahead, high-octane jazz to tender ballads, from driving Indian raga to Scottish traditional folk song, Modern Traditions is a collection of creative, contemporary jazz played by an established group at the height of their powers.

Press release pack

A good PR pitch, which leaves the album with a lot to live up to.

‘Magic Ten’ takes up the challenge and so with some style. The opening few bars have an angular jaunty style to them before the tune smooths out with very nice interplay between Brian Molley on sax and Tom Gibbs at the piano. There is a lot to like about this tune, particularly the New Orleans flavour of the piano playing and the march like quality of the drumming from Stuart Brown. The mood changes significantly with introduction of the beautifully written ballad ‘Lullaby-Bye’. The way this tune moves across the four musicians makes it a very enjoyable listen. There is plenty of tonal variation within the tune, which at times can be very soft and gentle but is counteracted by some nicely controlled intensity of playing. As a palette of sound and emotion goes this is a very good tune delivered by a group that know how to do it justice.

‘A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes’ is another ballad and this time it is Brodie Jarvie who opens the number with a strong bass line before the piano and sax join in. The tune is from the Disney film Cinderella and, apparently is a favourite of Brian’s. The bass line throughout is wonderful to hear, as is the switching of the melody between piano sax and with drummer Stuart Brown tying it all together this turns out to be a very good interpretation of the original written by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston. ‘Bletchley’ changes the mood of the album from gentle ballad to a vibrant, swinging number with rapid playing from pianist Tom Gibbs matched by drummer Stuart Brown. This tune is full of energy but never runs away with itself, my admiration for this quartet is growing with each tune.

‘The Trolley Song’ is from the 1944 Christmas film Meet Me in St Louis and Brian Molley said that “it gave me a chance to work on my arranging skills as I multi-tracked the introduction with over-dubbed flutes, saxes and clarinets. The reworking of the harmony here aims to give the tune a melancholic, monochromatic feel as a little antidote to the striking vivid technicolour of the original film.” All I can really say is that this arrangement works and works very well indeed. Change of mood again with ‘Nimble Royal’s’ and this track is another swinging number with terrific bass lines and an excellent solo from Brodie; a strong melody played well by Brian on sax and pianist Tom Gibbs matching him with the quality of his piano playing. Stuart Brown keeps the tempo ticking along and gets to play a number of brief solo phrases that work very well in the overall presentation of this straight-ahead jazz number.

‘Sinkapace for Mary and Philip’ is sombre waltz that would not be out of place in a Tim Burton film. Brian Molley’s use of light and shade in this tune is worthy of multiple listens. The subtlety of the playing is quite something and the accompanying playing of the other three members of this quartet does nothing to take away from the leader’s mellifluous tones. The album finishes on ‘Sarah Said’, a tribute to vocalist Sarah Vaughan, and it could not be any more different from the previous tune. Stuart Brown sets down a light Afro-Cuban beat but just as you get that in your head to tune switches to a swing number and then to and fro between the two styles seamlessly. The sax playing carries the melody while the punchy, percussive piano styling of Tom Gibbs gives the tune its driving energy and has the listener toe tapping to the end of this very good album.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album. I liked that Brian was not afraid to place two ballads next to each other in the running order. I also liked the mix of original compositions against new arrangements of other composers’ work. The playing across the quartet is very good and Brian’s arrangements, particularly that of ‘The Trolley Song’, are as strong as they are imaginative. I cannot wait to play some of this music on my ‘Sounds Like Jazz’ broadcast and share this quartet’s music with others.

This album is available on Bandcamp from 3rd of December, 2021

Musicians: Brian Molley – sax; Tom Gibbs – piano; Brodie Jarvie – double bass; Stuart Brown – drums.

Tracklist: 1. Magic Ten. 2. Lullaby-Bye. 3. A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes. 4. Bletchley. 5. The Trolley Song. 6. Nimble Royal’s. 7. Sinkapace for Mary and Philip. 8. Sarah Said.

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