The title of the second Cobblestone Jazz album refers to their recent expansion, the British Columbia outfit having added a new string to their bow in fourth member Colin de la Plante. What it also implies is that the group are making modern jazz music – which, as anyone who bought their fine debut record 23 Seconds will know, is emphatically not the case.
There are some similarities in the approach, mind. The group pride themselves on the use of analogue instruments and early computers, and make music free of obvious structural constraints. This means the music unfolds with a real sense of spontaneity, as jazz music does. Listening to it gives the impression the quartet themselves are at the other end of the room, setting down their most recent musical thoughts.
Deep house and warm, Detroit techno chords are very much the order of the day from the off, closely recorded and beautifully arranged. Ideas are given plenty of time to germinate, while the rhythms are never less than danceable, often zipping along with a frisson of nervous tension.
Only eight tracks appear in just under an hour’s running time, but it’s a choice set with very little padding. The urgent beat of the intimate Chance Dub kicks off, tempered slightly by the deeper textures, but by the time we get to Mr Polite the warmer chords are stripped back and the beat is slowed down a touch, ready for action on a funkier dancefloor.
Children is particularly beautifully constructed, while Chance is nocturnal and cool, with not a hair out of place. As the record progresses each stylistic turn and nuance feels inevitable but also fresh, a bit like turning down different streets in the same neighbourhood. The night time atmosphere carries the whole way through, but the colours within that are carefully and sometimes strikingly shaded.
The conviction with which the quartet carry out their plan is clear to hear – and results in a very fine piece of work, reminding at times of Matthew Herbert‘s early forays into deep house. Just like Herbert, they’re not afraid to push the boat out a bit, letting the music take its course but giving the occasional nudge to the steering wheel when needed. As a result, time spent listening to The Modern Deep Left Quartet is time extremely well spent and demands an instant repeat – by which time the spell of nocturnal escapism has been well and truly cast.