Chris Laurence Quartet
Bonington Theatre, High Street, Arnold - Thursday 2nd October 2008
By Trudie Squires
INTENSE cascades of pure, crystal clear sound were the hallmark of this quartet's performance; from Frank Ricotti's shimmering vibraphones and the liquid, golden tones of John Parricelli's guitar. This was all underlined by Laurence's colossal bass and drummer Martin France's chattering snare and sizzling cymbals. Laurence was playing an orchestral bass, its rich sound enhanced by a C string extension, which enabled him to produce lower notes than a conventionally strung instrument. Paradoxically, however, it was not until well into the session was it realised that his amplification had not been switched on; nonetheless his huge sound had been cutting through the ensemble before this was discovered.
Frank Ricotti played all evening with four mallets, which blended beautifully with Parracelli's superb guitar, producing sounds very reminiscent of the Gary Burton groups of the early 1980s. Most of the quartet's output was dedicated to the music of composer and arranger Kenny Wheeler - the Canadian-born trumpeter - and Laurence made no excuses for paying so much attention to his music. "It is music that must be played," he said in his quite humorous chats between numbers.
And the compositions, always lyrical and accessible, with their distinctive and ever changing harmonic patterns, fitted the group's instrumentation and approach to perfection. This was apparent from the opening number, Wheeler's The Long Waiting, which soon revealed Ricotti's transparent sound on vibes dovetailing with Parracelli's glowing guitar, producing a mood of peace and tranquillity. A Parracelli composition, Scrim, in 5/4 time, was another highlight, introduced by Martin France on his gleaming new "tiger skin" drum kit, which galloped along, aided by the guitar's passionate contribution.
It was on Kenny Wheeler's as yet untitled Ballad 130 that Laurence turned his amplifier on, so after a restart the musicians explored every facet of a very beautiful theme. The Gary Burton influence on the group's sound was confirmed when Wheeler's composition Going For A Burton needed no explanation for its inclusion. A clever drum solo was incorporated with block chords at the end of each chorus from vibes, bass and guitar, all played with precision and flare.
Another great evening at the Bonington, which was once again shown appreciation by the musicians. "It's nice to be back in Arnold," said Chris and later went on to describe his connections with Nottingham.