Nigel has recently released a new CD ‘Hidden’ comprised of mostly his original compositions with his new quartet featuring Paul Booth, Winston Clifford and Mark Edwards
“Excellent as Yoichi remains, the music of Hidden represents a major step-up in Thomas’s career. Mixed with a couple of numbers from Yoichi, it formed the core of two sets of top-quality fare at The Verdict, with Thomas mainly pizzicato but also offering some affecting passages of atmospheric arco. Framed by an opening, elegant reading of the blues-rinsed Oliver Nelson classic Stolen Moments and a concluding, joyously stomping take on Coleman Hawkins’s Bird Of Prey Blues, the music consistently had the packed and knowledgeable house at The Verdict on fire.
The beauty of Thomas’s current band is that it is just that: a genuine band with four strong individuals blending brilliantly to offer music as soaked in mellow, archetypal jazz values as it is fresh and invigorating. At times, some of the codas to the various pieces had the sort of measured depth of spread sound and focused spiritual conviction one associates with the great Coltrane quartet of the early 1960s – and yet the music was as fresh as the proverbial tomorrow. Winston Clifford, the engine room of the group, studied with Bill Eyden and Trevor Tomkins and has a CV as long as my arm, including work with Courtney Pine, Andy Sheppard, Iain Ballamy and Gary Bartz. Never mind Britain: is there a better drummer anywhere in the world today? Clifford’s rock-solid yet ever-flowing time, combined with the utmost dynamic imagination and subtlety, was a joy throughout. Whether using stick, brush or hand, his simultaneous precision and flexibility of touch and tone, rhythmic accent and colouristic filigree recalled (but never imitated) the snap-crackle of Roy Haynes, the story-telling clarity of Ed Blackwell and the all-round imagination of Brian Blades.
As noted above Clifford, Thomas and Edwards go back a long way. Whether negotiating a quirky, Wellins-like line such as What The Butler Saw, working out on the rolling grooves of Hidden and the ostinato-pumped Dark Light or caressing the reflective Another World and Seeker Of The Way (all Thomas originals) they drew many a captivating line from Booth. The saxophonist was, simply, superb throughout. With associations which range from Michael Janisch to Steve Winwood and Ernesto Simpson, his technical quality and refreshing breadth of imagination were quickly apparent. He cooked hard on tenor with a full and authoritative sound, but also told some deep stories; cut up rough and tough, a touch like mid-to-late Coltrane, but also delivered the most tender of soprano figures, as on the achingly lovely Yoichi. As on the late-1990s recording this drew a special, spaciously cast solo from Edwards who elsewhere was in typically coruscating, rhythmically invigorating form, his diversely conceived, ever-attentive support and variegated solos richly appreciated by all.
For my money (and yes, I did pay to get in) you can’t get much better, life-affirming music than this. The Nigel Thomas Quartet deserves to go far: certainly, I hope they can build on this terrific appearance at the South Coast Jazz Festival and come to delight many a club and festival audience, both here and abroad”
Michael Tucker Jazz journal international
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