Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet – 18/11/08 The Others, LJF

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“I am aiming to make honest and powerful music,” not an ignoble ambition, but one that very few manage to achieve. Guitarist-composer Jonathan Bratoeff did however meet this self-proclaimed aspiration and on this form London has a bright emerging star in its midst. As a fully accredited member of the award winning F-IRE Collective, Bratoeff carries the flame of progressive jazz. He is however not a musician to ignore tradition but he brings to it multiple references from outside of the genre. His compositions demonstrate great musical variety and adaptability but there seem to be some key ingredients consistent to all. The melodies he writes are powerful but not unnecessary complicated. The rhythms are vibrant and provide a diversity of textures and styles, although this is inevitably also a function of James Maddren’s (drums) evident musical intelligence. Ephemeral featured an introduction that referenced a contemporary classical inspiration, while Transition built its energy on the back of a drum ‘n’ bass shuffle before roaring into a potent drum ‘n’ bass groove.

Bratoeff’s use of harmonic tension and release is sublime both in composition and improvisation. His solos on Escallier and Fallen Courses demonstrated this capacity with choice chords deployed at unanticipated and illuminating moments, together with a Scofield-esque panache for blending concise abstract statements with plush rock/post-bop phrases in the melodic development. Mark Hanslip (sax) also expressed himself through abstract and post-bop assertions in his improvisation, which was coherent and reasoned throughout. Tom Mason (bass) displayed a wonderfully rich tone, proving to be the ideal vessel for these often intense and brooding compositions.

Under the haze of a post-performance glow Bratoeff told me, “Melodies are really important ... you get melody, harmony and rhythm and bam, bam, bam.” So, however enigmatically, therein lays the secret to this honest and powerful music.

Review - Joseph Kassman-Tod