Internationally acclaimed Scottish group the Brian Molley Quartet (BMQ) release their fourth album, Intercontinental on Friday 17th June, 2022. Recorded in collaboration with world-renowned Indian percussionist Krishna Kishor, Intercontinental once again features BMQ’s own blend of jazz and world music.
The quartet first worked with Chennai-based Kishor while touring India in 2017, performing a headline show together for Madras Jazz Festival as part of the British Council’s UK/India season. This much acclaimed first performance proved to be an exciting meeting of similar musical minds and the start of an innovative and productive collaboration despite the participants living on opposite ends of the planet. BMQ have returned to India to perform again with Kishor on two more tours and Intercontinental was recorded remotely between Glasgow and Chennai in 2021. Kishor will travel to Scotland for the first time in summer 2022 to perform alongside BMQ at the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Made in Scotland programme.
The BMQ’s special guest, Krishna Kishor is regarded as a world-class percussionist specialising in the traditions, practices and instrumentation of music from his home state of Tamil Nadu in South India. He has performed extensively in India as well as in the US and Europe. Krishna has contributed percussion to the soundtracks of over 100 Bollywood films and recently contributed his own original score to Annabelle Sethupathi, the 2021 Indian Tamil language comedy thriller.
The quoted words are by Brian Molley from the album’s press release, anything I might have to say appears under the quote.
‘The Crocodile and the Plover Bird’ – Those brave little guys, the Plover Birds are the ones who look after the crocodiles’ teeth and the various segments of this piece set out to represent the unique relationship between these two creatures. The aim here was to create a dynamic piece of music where we try to develop a lot of interaction between everyone in the group. This is a feature BMQ have developed a lot over many years of playing together.
The tune opens with a nice bass line from Brodie Jarvie supported by drummer Stuart Brown. Tom Gibbs adds his own voice on the piano before Brian Molley comes in with the tune’s central theme and his wonderful sonorous sax sound. The group interaction Brian Molley refers to above is there in spades and the dynamics of the piece grow as the tune progresses – nothing too showy, just good solid playing from a quartet who clearly understand each other.
‘Lotus and Thistle’ – With the national emblems of India and Scotland in the title, this piece set out to combine some of the elements of the folk music of our homelands in a saxophone-percussion duo. Krishna plays a variety of percussion instruments here in classic Carnatic style and the melody that I play reflects some of the stylistic elements of Scottish music.
This is the tune I keep returning to again and again because it makes me smile. The Scottish music feel to this number is front and centre on the sax, but it is the Carnatic style percussion playing of Krishna Kishor that gives the tune an international flavour that works so well: a perfect blend of two musical styles.
‘Ayemenem’ – The title here comes from the village where Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things is set in Kerala, Southwest India and the syllables of the village name match the rhythmic pattern at the start of the melody. We aimed for a high energy piece here where the bustle of BMQ is matched by Krishna’s energetic and driving Konakol singing and the bagal baccha, a single-stringed instrument with a hollow leather or pumpkin base.
This starts as a world music piece with great rhythms before the sax and piano bring in the jazz styling. Another strong track with engaging blends of styles, voices and cadences, and an excellent example of how well jazz can fuse with other musical patterns.
‘Thursday’s with GK’ – This somewhat moody and mysterious piece takes its title from a favourite book of mine, The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton. Krishna sets the scene with a percussion introduction leading into a snaking melody, which constantly attempts to weave back in on itself. The idea here is a line that doesn’t ever really settle, landing in unexpected places as it travels along.
Brian’s description of the piece is spot on and combined with what I heard makes me want to read the book that inspired the tune. I could easily imagine this number being used as a soundtrack on a Film Noir production: it is moody, it is mysterious and because it never really settles it does give the tune an edginess without being too disquieting.
‘Vasudeva’s Invitation’ – The famous river-man, from both Nick Drake and Herman Hesse is the Vasudeva of the title and this piece was written as a kind of homage to John Coltrane’s world-music inspired, epic compositions of the early 1960’s. It began life as a fragment of a folk melody from the Tamil Nadu region of India, Krishna’s home state, before developing into this piece with the percussion, on the udu, a clay pot drum, emphasising the South Indian influence.
A great sax led tune built around a repeating phrase played by Brian Molley supported by Tom Gibbs at the piano. A clear nod the jazz scene of the early 6os without being a pastiche, a well written and well played “new familiarity” piece.
‘Percussion Interlude’ is exactly that!
‘Ae Fond Kiss’ – We included a duo version of this Robert Burns classic as part of our programme while on tour in India in 2018. At that time, the news was constantly dominated with what seemed like particularly gloomy issues – little did we know what was to come – and my thinking was to present something positive and representative of Scottish goodwill and congeniality to our international audiences.
A beautifully lyrical tune, played by Brian Molley and Tom Gibbs, in which to lose oneself in all that is good about Scotland, its poetry and its music.
Ramal Dabke – The title here loosely translates as ‘Dances in the Sand’ and this piece has a middle eastern influence throughout. We start with a traditional slow ‘alap’ (the melodic style of improvisation that introduces a raga) before bursting into an energetic dance piece with a frantic unison melody shared between saxophone and piano. The spirited music here is in the style of the traditional dance music performed across the middle east. High energy solos all round are drawn to a close with a driving percussion feature from Krishna played on the djembe, a goblet drum from West Africa.
That slow ‘alap’ does not prepare the listener for the burst of energy that follows. This is a great tune on which to end the album with its mix of unison playing, excellent solo sections, rounded off by the distinctive sound of the djembe, before ending as a unit.
This album has been on my portable music player since I received it for review. I have enjoyed the fusion of jazz with the percussion styles of Krishna Kishor and the only thing that could make this music any better would be to hear it played live. I like what Brian Molley and his quartet produce (this is not the first of his albums I have reviewed) with its references to the music of Scotland. However, just by adding Krishna Kishor’s voice to the music there is a subtle change in the dynamics that make for an absorbing album release that I would have no hesitation in nominating for next year’s UK Parliamentary Jazz Awards category “Jazz Album of The Year”.
Musicians: Brian Molley – sax; Tom Gibbs – piano; Brodie Jarvie – double bass; Stuart Brown – drums; Krishna Kishor – percussion.
Tracklist: 1. The Crocodile and the Plover Bird. 2. Lotus and Thistle. 3. Ayemenem. 4. Thursday’s with G.K. 5. Vasudeva’s Invitation. 6. Percussion Interlude. 7. Ae Fond Kiss. 8. Ramal Dabke.