CD review: Yuri Honing Acoustic Quartet

(Challenge Records CR73336)

Let’s hear it for the slow saxophonists! There aren’t that many of them around these days, and this is an endangered species we let dwindle at our cost.

Flying the flag for Paul Desmond and similar slow movers, the Dutch Yuri Honing sets out his stall from the opening title tune which opens at a plod and sticks there – no, actually plod is not correct – rather the kind of stately processional pace held by men in tights and bejewelled shoes while holding the symbols of state aloft.

Playing so slowly leaves you nowhere to hide. The phrasing must be meticulous, the tuning perfect and the tone just right. And Honing has all of those. You’re going to need them all if you tackle a saxophone version of Schubert’s song cycle, Winterreise, as Honing has in the past. It also means the material needs to be rock solid. Here Honing devotes his artistry to an album of highly accessible modern jazz melodies. These are tunes you can whistle.

The band is just a quartet, with Wolfert Bredrode on piano and harmonium, Ruben Samama on double bass and Joost Lijbaart on drums. The album was recorded in one day in Berlin, and it is filled with gorgeousness.

Honing wrote most of the songs – all have strong melodies and are presented in clear, clean arrangements and within compelling grooves – and there is a powerful cover of Goldfrapp’s Paper Bag which works up an intense tenor head of steam, as well as a brush-charged soprano version of David Bowie’s Bring Me The Disco King (or, as printed on my pre-release copy cover, Bring me the discoking).

Borchardt sets Honing’s saxophone against a stirring and rich mix that suggests far more than three other instruments while Yasutani gets an impressionist beginning from Brederode, before Honing stretches long, long tenor phrases over the top while Lijbaart tickles the toms and Samama adds arco growls.

One final recommendation of this CD – it is just 45 minutes long. That’s like an old LP. Hurrah! It’s just the perfect length for listening to at one sitting, unlike so many modern hour-plus discs. Just because you can fit 75 minutes of music on an CD doesn’t mean you have to, just as being able to play at 160bpm means you have to do that either.

Here is bassist Ruben Samama’s Nobody Knows from the album to give you a flavour:

True is released on Monday and launched at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London, on Thursday 20 September.

Categories: CD review

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