The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - John McBeath

Hi(gh) Cu­ri­ous Eu­gene Ball 4tet In­de­pen­dent

Al­though multi-award-win­ning Mel­bourne trum­peter Eu­gene Ball has been per­form­ing on the jazz scene for 25 years, has worked as an ed­u­ca­tor for 18 years and has ap­peared on about 30 al­bums, this is his first record­ing as leader — in a col­lec­tion ded­i­cated to the Aus­tralian drum­mer Al­lan Browne, who died last year. In the ab­sence of a chordal in­stru­ment — the quar­tet com­prises trum­pet, trom­bone, elec­tric bass and drums — there is an en­hanced free­dom here, with one of the brass play­ers solo­ing singly or some­times in duet with just the rhythm sup­port­ing. Ball points out that a chordless en­sem­ble poses tough chal­lenges for a com­poser and it’s in­ter­est­ing to imag­ine how dif­fer­ent the en­sem­ble might have sounded with added keys or gui­tar.

There are four orig­i­nals and three oth­ers on Hi(gh) Cu­ri­ous, in­clud­ing a som­bre in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You. The al­bum has a slightly sad­den­ing at­mos­phere over­all, largely due to the slower tem­pos; only the opener, P is for Pump­kin, fea­tur­ing clever drum work by James McLean, and the ti­tle track are played at a faster pace. The Pump­kin track also fea­tures punchy horn so­los and Mick Meagher’s driv­ing elec­tric bass. The bal­lad Never Let Me Go is given sen­si­tive treat­ment, mor­ph­ing into Ball’s flar­ing trum­pet lead, un­der­scored by the bass’s arpeg­gio notes and a con­tra­pun­tal trom­bone.

Ball takes most of the so­los and James Ma­caulay’s trom­bone cap­tures the trum­pet’s mood in his own so­los and sup­ports in en­sem­ble pas­sages, ei­ther with pre­cise har­monised melodic notes or by play­ing a coun­ter­point line. The two horns work im­pres­sively well to­gether through­out the col­lec­tion.

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