Max Grunhard Quintet - Vortex
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Max Grunhard is an Australian who’s been in the UK five years now and in that time, he’s played with some impressive line-ups including, Afrobeat originals Osibisa, Spanky Wilson, Reel People, Kyoto Jazz Massive and forerunners of Zeep, Da Lata.
What immediately strikes me about this set is how lyrical Grunhard’s alto sound is, particularly of the super smooth ‘Empty’ and ‘Sea Shanty’. That said, don’t start thinking David Sanborn or even Rogue’s Gallery for that matter. This Quintet is proper New York jazz club set-up; even if it was recorded in a single afternoon at the Vortex Club in Dalston. Even so, these guys know their modal jazz heritage and their performance must have made Benedic Lamdin and Mike ‘Prince Fatty’ Pelanconi’s job of mixing the tapes a complete joy.
The other members of the group include the constantly excellent Riaan Vosloo on bass, Eduardo Marquez (drums), Scott Baylis (Flugelhorn) and Dan Hewson (Piano).
As you’d imagine, the title track is a high-speed whirl of energy. After Grunhard’s initial solo, Baylis’ Flugelhorn gets busy and is followed by Hewson. Vosloo and Marques are just superb throughout.
Comparisons have been made with Gary Bartz but there’s no classic Bartz sing-a-long ‘anthem’ here. The power is in the performance and you don’t need lyrics to hear what they are saying. ‘Vortex’ for the jazz dancers, the other three tracks are for the heads.
We’ve had so many jazz albums that touch the edge of late (like Don Cherry, ZAUM, Elan Mehler) and this is another great album that’s a worthy addition to Impossible Ark’s ever-impressive list of releases and artists, see The Plumstead Radical Club, the Fiction Dynasty,Lizzie Parks and Examples of Twelves.
Hectic Mix nominations: ‘Vortex’, ‘Sea Shanty’, ‘Empty’, ‘Earth Dancer’.
Reviewed: Max Grunhard Quintet — Vortex (Impossible Ark Records) Cat. No. IALP 004 Release date: 17 Jul 2007 Note: “Strictly Limited to 500 vinyl copies”. Recorded at the Vortex
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