RADIATING easy-going confidence and expressive, improvisatory freedom, guitarist Hannes Riepler’s new quartet release, Wild Life, balances West Coast cool with East End ebullience.
Born in Austria, though resident in London for the last decade and increasingly a key figure on the capital’s lively music scene, Riepler assembled this fine personnel from his popular weekly melting pot of international ‘happening’ jazz – Sunday night downstairs sessions at the Vortex Jazz Club. The spark of playing a set there with celebrated New York saxophonist Chris Cheek and established UK musicians Oli Hayhurst (double bass) and James Maddren (drums) ignited further collaboration, resulting in a 2015 European tour and this ‘live feel’ studio recording (his second as leader).
Riepler suggests that these eight tracks – mostly his own originals – are a reflection of the thronging multicultural community he is a part of (hence the ‘marketplace minstrel’ appearance on the CD cover!). There’s certainly a sense of momentum and discovery here; and whilst the predominant ‘easiness’ of this ensemble might initially allow these fifty-or-so minutes to blend pleasantly into the background, its impressive invention, detail and buoyant energy soon begin to emerge.
The guitarist’s sound is wholly integral to the quartet, either in understated chordal exploration or fleet solo line improvisation, as in Golden Rainbow which brightly breezes along to Chris Cheek’s fluid tenor delivery and James Maddren’s distinctive, hard-snare/tom exuberance. Nothing New … Just Beautiful‘s smooth openness highlights the lynchpin role of Riepler, laying down smouldering riffs and melodies for Cheek to take in new directions, as well as providing his own precise, self-accompanied forays; and the mobile guitar groove to Gillett Square Blues (alight at Dalston Kingsland station!) might conjure retro, swingin’ ’60s imagery, with tenor tumblings and a driving pulse from Maddren and Hayhurst.
Cheek’s composition Sailing Ships cuts through the swell with the sunniest of sax deliveries, Riepler matching Cheek’s feel-good with chromatic solo deftness and carefully woven rhythms to ease back into; and One Shot (the album opener) rocks out to this quartet’s incisive, responsive drum/bass pairing, with a whiff of livelier Joe Pass in Riepler’s showcases. Completing the urban portrait, title track Wild Life shuffles chirpily, and the impudence of the closing interpretation of singer-songwriter Beck’s pop-stomp, Modern Guilt, can’t fail to raise a smile (nay, a dance).
Released on 9 February 2016, Wild Life may well nudge its way into your affections – and there it might stay. Available directly from Jellymould Jazz.
Hannes Riepler guitar
Chris Cheek tenor saxophone
Oli Hayhurst double bass
James Maddren drums
Jellymould Jazz – JJ-JM022 (2016)