Portico Quartet: Knee-deep In The North Sea

~ Friday, 11 February 2011
No matter what your view of jazz is, it is hard not to hold the Portico Quartet in admiration. The Mercury nominated band have re-issued their 2007 debut album Knee-deep In The North Sea with some tweaking from the legendary John Leckie. I have not heard the original release of the album, so this is new to me but I'm sure their adoring public will still want to get their hands on this updated deluxe edition. Apart from Mr Leckie being let loose on the mixing desk we also have the inclusion of 3 live tracks and it is indeed in a live setting that these guys have always shone.

The groups influences are many and varied as is their sound so it is no surprise this is released on Peter Gabriel's world music label, Real World. Listening to this record I found myself not even noticing where one track ended and another starts. Not because they sound alike but rather that the whole experience of listening to this record for me was one of immersion in its rich tapestry of sounds and getting lost in the skill and dexterity that each member processes as a musician. Jack Wyllie's soprano sax is sublime throughout as is Duncan Bellamy's quite wonderful drum and percussion work. Milo Fitzpatrick and Nick Mulvey are no less engaging.

The albums 10 studio tracks almost play like a soundtrack or a concept album, each one being tied in someway to the others, whether in the instrumentation or the feel. The title track is a beguiling piece of work that displays a restrained lethargy before waking up as if it has just had a nightmare before laying its head back down and dozing gently. Pompidue is another track that works on the senses and it the type of track that you feel the likes of Charlie Parker would be playing if he was still with us.

As I said before the band really come alive in a live setting so I was expecting something more from the 3 live tracks. Don't get me wrong they sound wonderful and are beautifully recorded and produced but they just don't sound live. The applause from the audience is the only thing that gives away the fact that these are live recording. Like there 2009 album Isla, this is a wonderful piece of work that offer far more to the listener that they may expect. The word jazz can have people running for the hills but just as pop music comes in many guises, so does jazz and these guys are standard bearers for a whole new generation.


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