Review: Terri Lyne Carrington at Montreux

It’s hard to think of a better name for this drummer-led collective than the Mosaic Project. Not only does Carrington draw from a varied pool of (predominantly female) musicians when deciding the lineup, she takes them through genre-crossing arrangements and originals, piecing together fragments from distinct musical styles, designing wide-ranging sets and finding new colours in old melodies. At times, it feels like listening to her iPod on shuffle. Fortunately she has impeccable taste.

Over the course of their 90-minute performance the group touched on everything from the Beatles to Charlie Parker, choosing a frighteningly up-tempo rendition of Sippin’ At Bells to meet the packed Montreux Jazz Club’s demand for an encore.

Before all that there was the brutalist, contemporary funk of Mosaic Triad, anchored by scowling bassist Josh Hari, and a soulful rendition of Al Green’s Simply Beautiful, one of several features for vocalist Lizz Wright. Chocolatey and bittersweet, Wright’s voice is sublime and she was rightly left alone with the melody. But with the bridge came something fresh; undulating horn lines, given a synth-like edge by trumpeter Ingrid Jensen’s Harmon mute and the addition of Matthew Stevens’ guitar.

Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday, one of the highlights of the set and a track that features on the group’s forthcoming album Mosaic Project 2, was similarly reworked. Its weary, gospel-tinged melody floated above a whirlwind of changing tempos and times, closing with a soft vocal cadenza while the rhythm section caught their breath.

Throughout, the septet provided solos that were as varied as the repertoire. Altoist Tia Fuller unleashed surging, atonal lines that had the audience grimacing with delight, Stevens cut through the texture with fast breaks and steely holds, while Rachel Z’s Fender Rhodes was sultry and sophisticated.

Best of all were features for Carrington and Jensen. The drummer’s improvisations were exploratory and immaculately paced while Jensen’s solos bordered on the schizophrenic, sinking down into the lower register where her sound is all butter and raw brass before soaring upwards, becoming flutters and squeals. She is, without doubt, one of the most exciting trumpet players on the contemporary scene.

The melancholic folk of Nick Drake’s Three Hours, a duo rendition of Nature Boy featuring Carrington and Wright, and the uplifting Walk With Me Lord rounded off a masterclass in jazz fusion. A true musical mosaic; it could scarcely have been richer in its references. I’d pay good money for another 90 minutes with Carrington’s iPod.

– Thomas Rees

Photos (c) 2014 FFJM – Daniel Balmat

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