RM / RM001

Ntshuks Bonga / alto sax, Alfredo Genovesi / guitar, Jerry Bird / bass, Robin Musgrove / drums

FJQ play a wholly modern-sounding take on high-energy free jazz. Eschewing any sort of ’60s revivalism, they sound nothing but completely contemporary. Don’t be fooled by the conventional-looking lineup: far from being a standard reeds-and-rhythm session, this is something very different and very special indeed.

Musgrave powers the group along with a drum sound derived as much from rock as from jazz; his vocabulary seems to be a genuine fusion of bebop and prog, all precision and crisp articulation. None of the ambiguating muddiness which followers of the likes of Sunny Murray tend to be attracted to here; every gesture is carefully placed, perfectly timed, clearly stated. He plays in close co-operation with Bird, an articulate bassist who, again, has more than just jazz in his repertoire, and together the two produce a souped-up, ametrical funk and sustain a high energy level without falling back on tired old patterns. With these two in the rhythms section, nothing could go wrong, and nothing does.

Genovesi’s interaction with them is a revelation — he’s a distinctive and imaginative player, again making frequent references to rock as well as jazz, particularly in his use of effects, with which he at times turns his guitar into a kind of synthesiser. He’s a tasteful player, but also a challenging one. Not content to comp chords (this isn’t changes-playing anyway), he interjects his own ideas and keeps the musical flow active and alive. Not so far from the mainstream as John Jasnoch or Stefan Jaworzyn, he is perhaps most comparable with Giancarlo Nicolai. While he doesn’t have the same depth of jazz affiliation as Nicolai, it’s more than made up for by his sense of what goes where. A player to keep an ear out for in the future.

Likewise Ntshuks Bonga, who really is a wonderful player. Utterly immersed in free jazz, he somehow manages to avoid those near-inevitable avatars, Coltrane and Ayler. He’s capable of thematic development, but not tied to it, comfortably switching to textural effects or compressed, surprising gestures as the music requires. Bonga doesn’t dominate this date the way that the instrumentation might suggest, but he makes an indispensable contribution.

This is a great record for at least two reasons. Individually, each of the players is fantastically good, and each one is rather undervalued. Collectively, they cook up a storm; one gets the feeling that this is the group that each one of its members has wanted to play in all his life. Magical stuff; let’s hope there’s more where this came from. Richard Cochrane