I first caught the New Bop Quintet (NBQ) a few months ago, and since that appearance, they have had considerable success; playing at the Wellington Jazz Festival, appearing in large venues and touring. Now after months on the road they have an album out. An album that could best be termed, a love letter to Hard Bop; that accessible blues-infused genre that quickly became a touchstone for Jazz lovers of all stripes. Outside of the Great American Songbook, the Hard-Bop era produced the best-loved Jazz standards. Many of them are featured on the album.
Putting out albums of familiar Jazz standards was avoided for a time as it invited comparisons with the originals. Now seventy years later there are fresh ears and enough distance to evaluate equitably. It is a well-recorded album and the musicianship is of a high standard. In addition, the more traditional stylists sound comfortable playing alongside modern conceptionalists like pianist Field. It has always been a feature of Jazz that the older styles influence subsequent developments. This is the perpetual two-way dialogue that keeps the music relevant.
I have never heard Mike Booth sound better, and Pete France, who we wish we heard more often. Both played beautifully, that tone. As they played there was the pervading sense that an essence had been captured. The most experienced of the quintet members is undoubtedly Dr Frank Gibson Jr. He is a versatile drummer and one of the most recorded artists in Aotearoa. He always sounds great but he absolutely killed it on this date. With rhythms like that pulsing underneath them, the band must have felt that anything was possible. His ability to carve up time and urge others on is his gift.
Graduating from the UoA Jazz school in 2012, Cameron McArthur was the youngest band member, but since graduating he quickly established himself as one of the pre-eminent bass players in the city. Lastly, on piano, Keven Field. His rhythmic and harmonic approach is unique and forward-looking. He is undoubtedly a modern stylist and most at home alongside the likes of Matt Penman, Julien Lage or Mike Moreno. Having him on board gave the album a strong post-millennium foothold.
While predominantly featuring much-loved standards, there were also four originals. One each was penned by Gibson and McArthur and two by Booth. The compositions all referenced the Hard Bop style and did so convincingly. Gibson’s tune ‘Beaver Fever’ was irresistible. The last time HBQ played I singled out ‘Speak no Evil’ (Shorter) and Soy Califa (Gorden) for comment. During Wednesdays live gig, the arrangements of Green Dolphin Street (Kaper Bronislaw) and Stablemates (Golson) stood out. The arrangements were by France and Field respectively. Booth is also a fine arranger (watch out for the AJO’s new release.
The gig lineup differed from the album personnel in one respect, Wil Goodinson had replaced McArthur. He was the youngest band member by a wide margin, but he gave a great performance. His solos were melodic and inventive and he is already nipping at the heels of the more experienced bass players. Lastly, credit must be given to the producers David Innes and Terrance O’Neil-Joyce. They poured heart and soul into this project and should take a bow.
Mike Booth (trumpet), Dr Frank Gibson Jr (drums), Keven Field (piano), Pete France (tenor saxophone), Cameron McArthur (bass), *live gig Wil Goodinson (bass). The album is out on the Manu 6022 Label and available from stores.
JazzLocal32.com is rated as one of the 50 best Jazz Blogs in the world by Feedspot. The author is a professional member of the Jazz Journalists Association, poet & writer. Some of these posts appear on related sites.