‘A New Pavan’ from the Martin Pyne Quartet

I don’t know how familiar you are with the name Martin Pyne but I can tell you that he is a versatile musician, playing vibraphone, drums, and a range of other percussion. He works in jazz and free improvisation and is an accomplished composer. He has an ongoing song writing collaboration with singer Laura Zakian and works regularly with leading silent film accompanist Stephen Horne. By far the greatest part of Martin’s professional time is spent working with contemporary dance and, of course, pavan is a stately dance in slow duple time, popular in the 16th and 17th centuries (don’t you just love the internet).

Bass player Marianne Windham gets things underway on ‘A New Pavan For These Distracted Times’ with percussion interjections from Martin Pyne. Philippe Guyard plays the plaintive melodic line on this sedate opener and the sound is beautiful. There are light touches of sound from guitarist Russell Jarret before he gets to take over from the sax on the central theme. The feel of this number is open, spacious, relaxed, and engaging. ‘Baby Nou’ is, according to the album information pack “a portrait in sound of a small white kitten rushing round the house causing fluffy chaos”. Russell Jarrett plays some terrific guitar on this piece with good backing from Martin Pyne on drums. The sax/drum section is a real treat, and I found the energy of this number stimulating.

‘Captain Call and Gus MacCrae’ is named after two characters from a Western novel by Larry McMurtry. The melody on this track is shared between sax and guitar, both of whom play very well – the sax produces some wonderful tonal colour with splashes of sound from a cymbal played by Martin (a recurring effect on this album). ‘In Silence the Spirit Speaks’ begins with some interesting percussion that has a distinct African feel. That African vibe is emphasized when Russell Jarrett brings in the guitar led melody.  Philippe Guyard fills out the sound when his sax picks up the main melody and highlights what a great tune this is. I should have liked to have heard the bass a bit further forward in the mix, but it is there and adds to the overall sound of this terrific track – and just listen out for when the guitarist pushes the vibrancy of the piece in the latter stages of the number.

The jazz waltz that is ‘Solstice Bells’ was originally composed to accompany a poem by John Betjeman. The rise and fall of the sax is sublime, with a light touch of accompaniment from guitarist Russell Jarrett before he takes on the melody with a solid backing from the bass player. Marianne Windham, on bass, also gets the opportunity to solo and does so with style. This is an enjoyable waltz that I felt had a tinge of Parisian styling to it – another very good track.

‘Soft Ambush’ is an upbeat funky and, apparently cat related, number on which saxophonist Philippe Guyard gets the chance to stretch out and play some blistering lines. Russell Jarrett picks up the reins at around the four-minute mark and does not let-up on the energy levels which are propelled forward by Martin Pyne on drums – I am not sure where the “soft” bit comes into this vivacious track. ‘Dimmet’ is an old word for twilight and is inspired by “country walks (during lockdown) in idyllic warmth, and a strange but wonderful absence of traffic noise”. There is an effusiveness about this tune that is carried by the sax that I found unhurried and calming, particularly against the slightly harder sound of the guitar and that lightly crashing cymbal.

The final track of the album is ‘Nette’s Move’ is dedicated to a belly dancing chess expert. I am not sure the chess reference is apparent but there is no doubting the belly dancing feel of this number. Martin Pyne lays down the rhythmic patterns over which the guitar and sax weave the melody – the sax really hitting that middle Eastern feel associated with the dance of the belly. What I really enjoy about this track, and indeed much of the album, is that

there’s nothing loud, nothing showy, nothing esoteric, just a delight in the deft touch of a stick, a mallet, a finger, or a wire brush on metal, skin or wood, which transforms sound into a sense of movement.

Richard Williams, The Guardian

Richard Williams wrote those words about Martin’s album Spirits Of Absent Dancers, but I believe that the sentiment applies just as well to this album – an album I will be returning to for further listening pleasure.

A New Pavan can be purchased from Bandcamp from 1 June, 2022

Musicians: Philippe Guyard – saxophones; Russell Jarrett – guitar; Marianne Windham – double bass; Martin Pyne – drums / percussion.

Tracklist: 1. A New Pavan For These Distracted Times. 2. Baby Nou. 3. Captain Call and Gus MacCrae. 4. In Silence The Spirits Speak. 5. Solstice Bells. 6. Soft Ambush. 7. Dimmet. 8. Nette’s Move.

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