Greg Cordez Quintet bustle up at Bristol’s Wardrobe Theatre


The backstory: having written the music during a personally difficult year Bristol-based bass player Greg Cordez decided to recruit some of his favourite New York musicians to record it over there. The inevitable economic constraints, however, only allowed a single day for the project. The resulting album, Last Things Last, is a fine set of tunes in Greg's lyrical contemporary style, with notable soloing from guitarist Steve Cardenas. It remained to be seen, however, how his regular Quintet would develop the material live.

The gig: a capacity audience with a sizeable presence of younger people reflected the popularity of both Cordez as a college tutor and his promising support act Harvey Causon (a tutee). Shifting between electronica and indie-rock arrangements the three-piece band's short set of tightly constructed songs' repetitions and broken vocal textures recalled James Blake and others.

Cordez's own set warmed up with a couple of older tracks before tackling 'Low Winter Sun', a tune written the night before that NY recording session. The empathetic brass pairing of Get The Blessing's Pete Judge (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Jake McMurchie (tenor sax) captured the sense of nervous anticipation, their ambivalent dialogue progressing over a deceptively relaxed rhythm. By contrast, post-rocker 'Cherry V Des Moines' came from a more confident place, with McMurchie's increasingly rough-edged exposition matched by explosive drumming outbursts from Matt Brown. Steve Banks' careful solo guitar introduction to 'Last Things Last' evoked a plaintive Metheny-esque lyricism in a simmering piece whose haunting flugelhorn elegy felt like an unspoken tribute to Hugh Masakela.

The emotional richness of the new music was well nurtured in the ensemble playing, with Greg's own understated contribution emphasising his preference for keeping things together while leaving space for others. By the time they reached 'Figlock''s feature solo, with Steve Banks wandering through the psychedelic end of Bill Frisell territory, the bassist's continuing development as an astute composer was more than evident, firmly underlined by the strength and consistency of his accomplices.

Story and photo Tony Benjamin