Snow Blue Night: RipRap Quartet

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It’s spring, the bulbs and daffodils are with us, lambs are gamboling and it is time to tell you about some new music that you may enjoy. At the end of January, I wrote about Groove Merchant by The Tommy Chase Quartet here. Kevin Flanagan played sax on that album and when I emailed to let him know about my piece, I decided that I would try to write about his current musical endeavours. It’s great to be able to write about a musician, so obviously adept in playing the hard bop changes, who has moved into different, more contemporary territory and also to tell you about a new recording that has recently been released. Riprap have played together for over 8 years and the four members have played alongside many of the great and the good of British jazz, as well as with stellar rock and soul stars.

I’ve had Snow Blue Night for just over a week and I’ve probably played it through about a dozen times. Initially, I struggled to find the words and means to write about it. First impressions included observations that the music was melodic, complex, engaging and that Riprap have the great virtue of knowing how to listen to each other as well as being able to play their individual instruments with great skill.

There is none of the head, solo, solo, solo, reprise of head predictability found in the average hard bop set. What I did hear was a very listenable set of 10 tracks. Starting with an energetic and melodic Snow Blue Night, Kevin Flanagan introduces the theme on soprano saxophone before giving way to the piano of Dave Gordon who enters a dialogue with Russ Morgan on restrained and complimentary percussion, followed by a soaring soprano sax led section. I’m aware that Kevin Flanagan worked with Bristol trip-hop band, Portishead, and the next track up, Old Year, has Andrew Brown playing a bass line that reminds me very much of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines- but maybe that’s just these old ears of mine. The Beck is a delightful piece of music that demands attention despite being played with great subtlety and restraint. As noted above, Riprap really know how to listen to each other.

Cuba Cafe, as the name suggests has something of the Caribbean about it- a bit of mambo cha cha perhaps is this poor attempt to describe the feel. Song is a complex piece played in distinct movements, with a second section which offers plenty of space for the interplay between the bass, percussion and piano. English Isobars has a sense of sophistication that the piano and soprano saxophone deliver before Andrew Brown produces a short bass solo and more exquisite piano. Newk is a tribute to Sonny Rollins. I’m not sure if it echoes any of The Colossus’s compositions in particular but it lends itself to some playful interplay between the four musicians. Saying The Names starts with a repeated looped phrase (played on the bass, I think) which runs like a pulse through a first section before Dave Gordon plays some amazing piano. A third section re-introduces Kevin Flanagan with another repeated phrase on bass to take us out. Our Lady of Guadeloupe starts with a bass led phase, which creates a sense of tension and mystery. Finally, Helicon melds another mixture of light, shade and great sensitivity.

The album sounded great over a Naim/ Spendor system. It has been a pleasure to discover a very fine contemporary set which downwithit can recommend to you without any reservation or hesitation. The great thing is that Riprap are a working quartet with at least four gigs coming up between now and September 2014 (Cambridge, Watford, Ipswich area). The album can be bought as a CD for £10 including postage and packaging direct from Kevin Flanagan’s website, which you can link to from here. You can also buy downloads from there. If you only buy one new British jazz album in the coming months, treat yourself to this one. There’s also lots more information about the band and forthcoming gigs there too.

The band:- Riprap are: Kevin Flanagan (reeds); Dave Gordon (piano); Russ Morgan (percussion); Andrew Brown (bass). January 2012. Recorded at Anglia Ruskin Recital Room, Cambridge. Produced by Kevin Flanagan, Bill Campbell and John Ward; Recording Engineer: Bill Campbell, assisted by Jamie Currie and David Kuratsu. Cover photo: Jane Perryman; Art & Design: Crosstown Traffic. Riprap (own label).

I’ve said my bit and now you can hear from Kevin Flanagan, himself, courtesy of YouTube. Naturally, he tells us about the music of Riprap in a far better way than a reviewer could hope to and there are several extracts from Snow Blue Night to be heard there too:-

To watch, click or press the button.

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