Mu Quintet: Summit 

Leeds band inspired by Andrew Hill posits that younger cats' familiarity with noise and electronica has opened their minds to the avant garde


The excellent Leeds-based Mu Quintet are inspired by the 60s avant-garde. The band – excepting pianist Hugh Vincent – met while studying jazz at what was then Leeds College of Music. At that somewhat conservative institution, they were rebellious free players.

Vincent studied jazz piano at Birmingham Conservatoire and met the other band members when he moved to Leeds: “Leeds has a great community of free improvisors working in music, movement and visual arts”, he comments by email.

The excellent original compositions are a highlight – this is a highly rewarding synthesis of the free and the more mainstream, indebted to the more radical products of the 60s Blue Note era. As Vincent comments by email: “A great deal of inspiration for Mu’s sound comes from that era – Andrew Hill Point Of Departure and so on. We feel it’s most faithful to our project to record our own compositions which we’ve played intensively together, allowing them to open up. We occasionally play jazz compositions in live settings – we’re currently working on a Louis Moholo tune, You Ain’t Gonna Know Me ‘Cos You Think You Know Me.”

There’s a mix of grooves and free-jazz tumbling momentum. Each of the compositions is characterful and memorable, overcoming a common problem for improvisers who write their own material. For instance, Maya is a superbly memorable mid-tempo Latin composition with a clever construction. Equally excellent is the improvising on these compositions. On the opening Diogenes’ Pot, Joel Stedman contributes a Dolphy-ish solo on bass clarinet, while II is a compelling duet between Stedman and Cliffe, both on flutes.

“There’s more appetite for free playing now, as more radical genres of music become accepted by younger cats,” says Vincent. “Noise and other more left-field forms of electronica are mainstream nowadays so there’s an appetite for improv and heavier music.” This is a UK band of unusual promise, and I look forward eagerly to their next release.

Diogenes’ Pot; I; Summit; Miss B.; II; Maya’s Mood; Sight; III; Sukha; Lizard; IV; Faith (54.29)
Matt Cliffe (ts, f); Joel Stedman (f, bcl); Hugh Vincent (p); Elliot Roffe (b); Simon Henry (d). Leeds, September 2022.
Dirth Records DIRTH-005