Symphonic modern jazz to get your blood pumping.
Portico Quartet’s sixth album “Monument” was fantastic. It contained some of the new jazz bands best and most accessible work to date and hopefully captured a whole new wave of fans. “Next Step” is an EP that was recorded at the same time and functions more like an offcuts collection. These tracks are not lesser tracks than those that made Monument – they are more musically quirky.
The EP opens with the superb “Captured Time” which brings back in Portico Quartet’s signature handpan as a central instrument alongside the piano, bass, drums and saxophone. It is the most expansive and atmospheric piece on the release that lets the backing strings soar with the saxophone and the drums just roll out underneath like an unfurling carpet of music. It’s effortlessly excellent and very Portico too. They bring such buoyancy and life to their jazz and it is all on display here once again.
“Next Stop” is a full-blown explosion of energy. The drums run in a 7/8 fashion and trip over themselves as keyboards, sax, bass and piano begin to cascade over each other like a musical waterfall. There are several moments where everyone is in freeform elegance, showing off their prowess and yet it all sounds so cohesive. It is a true display of their craft whilst not feeling overly indulgent either. The flipside of that is the restrained beauty of “Procession”. This is a new jazz hit in the making and bringing in that time signature switch up, the piano riff shops short of the bar for every other instrument. It feels like a ballad shuffle as if the procession is stopping to straighten itself out and then walk on again. Closing piece “Youth” is a slow trippy piece that brings unity of strings, sax and slow-moving synths. Portico Quartet call it a deceptively simple song and in some ways it is. That deception comes from the slow-motion effect the song gives you – it’d work great for any space or nature collage.
Whilst some can be wary of these bonus “songs left off” EP’s that often pop out, “Next Step” is just as great as its album counterpart. Fans of new jazz, or crossover jazz as its sometimes known as, will love this. It showcases Portico Quartet tinkering around the edges of their usual sounds – giving you a little bit of everything. They do what they do so well. Symphonic crossover jazz has never had it so good. If you’ve never tried the genre – this is a great place to dip your toe in.
Recommended track: Captured Time
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