Mettã by the Matt Ridley Quartet
As a leader, British double bassist and composer Matt Ridley is a specifically investigative musician whose artistry is derived from a desire to create a strong, meaningful and structural purpose out of each initial glint of inspiration.
Following up his debut release on Whirlwind (Thymos, 2013), his new album Mettã – a title and concept referencing themes of benevolence and goodwill – finds him progressing his shared creativity again with his quartet of pianist John Turville, drummer George Hart, and soprano saxophonist Jason Yarde, who appears here in a fuller, more centrally melodic role. Captured within a single day, this is a studio recording brimming with passion and spontaneity.
The seven extended originals of Mettā arise from an almost strategic, compositional plan which inspires engaging extemporisation from all players. Removed from any notion of a conventional head/solo approach, Ridley’s musical landscape is one of focused rhythmic, chordal and improvisational invention which can both challenge and delight – as in storytelling opener ‘Music To Drive Home To’, whose steady, end-of-day journeying, led by Jason Yarde’s colorful soprano dialogue and John Turville’s spangled ostinati, is punctuated by unpredictable pauses and meanderings.
That spirit is key to the magnetism of this album’s performances, its title track mysteriously building Ridley’s desired sense of amity through the elevated, free expression of his lucid bass soloing, George Hart’s fiery drum and cymbal elaborations, and the soulful cries of Yarde. ‘Lachrymose’, too, overflows with sensitive expression, Turville’s crystalline piano brightly tempering Yarde’s mournful theme; and ‘Strange Meeting’s’ romanticism coruscates unexpectedly to crisp, percussive slivers and bewitching soprano imaginings.
A contrasting tour de force is the snappy, chaotic vigor of ‘Mental Cases’, as the quartet relentlessly pushes the commotion with quick-fire syncopation, pulsating bass momentum, modal pyrotechnics and piano pandemonium. Perpetuating Ridley’s aspirations for engaging music-making, ‘The Labyrinth’ becalms a similar state of panicky disorientation with elegant-yet-animated combined arco bass and soprano phrases which teasingly and eventually prompt an infectiously wide swing; and to close, classically-inflected ‘Ebb and Flow’ glints, jewel-like, summing-up this band’s impressive diversity and ebullience.
Matt Ridley describes his quartet’s offering as “considered, composed/improvised music which might transport and entertain both listeners and players, creating and involving all in an awareness of the present – that’s something I feel strongly about.” The immersive experience of these fifty-or-so minutes suggests that intention is excitingly on-track.