CD Review: Matt Anderson Quartet, Live at Leeds Jazz Festival

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London-based saxophonist Matt Anderson is gearing up to unveil his third album on March 1st, and it’s a departure from his previous studio releases. Aptly titled “Live at Leeds Jazz Festival,” the album captures the essence of a live performance at HEART, Headingley, on May 25, 2023, during the Leeds Jazz Festival.

Presenting the Matt Anderson Quartet in its first-ever live release, the recording showcases the group’s finesse as they explore a repertoire of original tunes with their trademark open, interactive, and daring approach. Led by saxophonist and composer Matt Anderson, the quartet’s third album follows the 2022 release, “The Town and the City,” revisiting two tracks from that record, namely “Northern Journey” and “The Conversation,” while introducing four new compositions.

The band’s synergy as an ensemble shines brightly in this live setting, a testament to their enduring collaboration spanning eight years of performing, touring, and recording together – a remarkable feat in today’s ever-evolving jazz landscape.

Formed during their Masters studies at the Royal Academy of Music in 2015, the Matt Anderson Quartet is a tight-knit group comprised of immensely talented musicians. Pianist Alberto Palau, hailing from Valencia, Spain, brings a wealth of experience from his time in Boston and New York, while drummer Jay Davis and bassist Will Harris round out the rhythm section with their solid contributions.

The live recording at HEART in Headingley not only captures the Quartet’s musical prowess but also the palpable excitement of the Leeds audience, familiar with the band’s frequent appearances at the venue as part of the city’s annual jazz festival.

While the album remains rooted in jazz traditions, there’s a contemporary flavor that pervades the set, ensuring a fresh and engaging listening experience. Opening with “The Conversation,” a track from their previous studio album, the Quartet immediately sets the tone with a 9/8 groove infused with an Afro feel, echoing a post-Coltrane vibe.

The subsequent track introduces a different mood—a medium blues with a gospel feel, providing a well-executed contrast to the adventurous opener. Pianist Alberto Palau takes the lead on “Northern Journey,” a British folk-influenced piece featuring Anderson on soprano saxophone. The track unfolds with a captivating piano solo and a solid groove from the rhythm section.

“Green Shoots,” dedicated to Anderson’s newborn son, Robert, modulates between a modal-based straight groove and a swing interlude, this track is perhaps the least adventurous of the set. “Mr. Weird,” a tribute to Wayne Shorter, stands out as a highlight with its strong swing groove, featuring an excellent solo by Anderson and an extended bass solo from Will Harris.

Closing the album is “Teleforce,” an up-tempo modal piece rooted in the post-Coltrane era, wrapping up the live set on a high note. “Live at Leeds Jazz Festival” is not just a documentation of the Quartet’s performance; it’s a strong statement from a group that have honed their sound over years of performing with a consistent line-up, making it a must-listen album for the start of the new year.

Matt Anderson – Tenor and Soprano Sax | Alberto Palau – Piano | Will Harris – Double-Bass | Jay Davis – Drums

Track Listing:
1. The Conversation | 2. New Old Blues | 3. Northern Journey | 4. Green Shoots | 5. Mr. Weird | 6. Teleforce

Release Date: 1 March 2024
Format: CD | Streaming
Label: Hidden Threads Records

Last modified: January 29, 2024