Kristian Borring Quartet, 13 April 2018

Kristian Borring, guitar

Rick Simpson, piano

Dave Whitford, bass

Jon Scott, drums

There’s group chemistry—and then there’s alchemy. This was a particularly fine display of the ways in which every instance of individual musical expression can serve to enhance the group sound.  There is no shortage of piano trios and guitar trios, so what was intriguing in prospect was to hear how piano and guitar would combine. The short answer is ‘wonderfully’—much abetted by the redoubtable Jon Scott on bass and Dave Whitford’s often roiling drum work.

Although Kristian Borring’s guitar was of course generally front and centre, Rick Simpson’s piano was not relegated to subdued rhythm duties. In fact, it was the rhythmic possibilities opened up by two instruments that each have both chordal and melodic modes that formed the character of much of the music. The ways in which they were able to alter and extend the familiar patterns of theme/chorus/solo imparted to both sets a variety and charm that exceeded what anyone might have thought possible with such musical forces. Early in the first set, Kristian stood back from the melody, playing chords against Rick Simpson’s piano extravaganza—but even as his right hand dazzled, his left was playing a counter-rhythm to Kristian’s guitar. Bass and drums added to this interaction, delivering music that was at once both remarkably complex and an utter delight.

This is a band that can certainly swing and drive, but even so, Kristian had the skill and taste to finish a crescendo that didn’t rely on ‘power chords’ or over-driven guitar: the power was in the music, not the volume. Yet the band had a particularly good line in hard-driving numbers, with all four musicians at peak revs. And in parallel with the remarkable patterning of guitar and piano, Jon Scott’s ‘more really is more’ bass and Dave Whittford’s polyrhythmic drumming gave the music further depth and drive. Another feature of the interaction between all four players is how they managed to combine precision without any sense of being over-rehearsed or lacking in spontaneous creativity.

Kristian’s playing also featured some sweetly melodic material—his own compositions—that for all their grace certainly looked like a technical challenge; and his fellow musicians were of course no less adept at accompanying him in these quieter and more reflective numbers.

It was certainly alchemy—musical gold.

© J. Whitman, 14th April 2018

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