This was passionate, committed and imaginative playing from a young band that displayed all of the qualities one might normally look for only in seasoned, high profile groups. Their format—a piano-less quartet comprising tenor, trumpet, bass and drums—immediately called to mind the classic formulations of Ornette Coleman, but the Family Band has its own voice and its own ways of dealing with the challenges of keeping the performances ‘airborne’ without the harmonic support and melodic lift that the piano usually supplies in small group jazz. It was fascinating to hear how they produced such a full, rich sound, even in the slower-paced numbers. But it was the up-tempo performances which best displayed the considerable abilities of each of the musicians, as well as the group sound.
Drummer Steve Hanley threatened to steal the show—not by flashy displays or extended solos, but by his fantastically rich and energetic polyrhythmic playing.
Very much a pulse-driven drummer, he provided an ever-shifting backdrop against which the rest of the music unfolded. His slower and often more abstract contributions revealed a finely attuned and precise musical intelligence, entirely in synch with the rest of the band. Leader and bassist Tom Rivière had the kind of rich, rounded tone that was reminiscent of Charlie Haden. His playing was a perfect match for Hanley’s drumming; and his carefully worked lines in the group passages soon made it clear that he was leading the band. But his finest moments came in the quitter passages, effectively in duet with either tenor or trumpet—quite beautiful playing.
Riley Stone-Lonergan’s tenor playing was characterised by a combination of technical prowess and passion. Much of it was ‘wild’ in the sense that he was often at the extremes of melodic improvisation, though without indulging in freak-out pyrotechnics. And when he let rip, his power and technical command were astonishing. Kim Macari took the limelight less often, but her clear-toned trumpet playing was certainly a match for the tenor, whether they were doubling or ‘weaving.’ But the hallmark of her playing was her fantastic soloing: carefully crafted and unusual melodic turns made each of her solos an adventure, both in prospect and in fact.
The Family Band are Northern Line Ambassador artists—and richly deserved, too. Give each of them an embassy.
Kim Macari – trumpet
Riley Stone-Lonergan – tenor saxophone
Tom Rivière – double bass
Steve Hanley – drums
© Jim Whitman