Tristan Banks: View From Above

The drummer boss of the Verdict jazz club in Brighton debuts his Brazil-inclined writing in a set featuring woodwind man Paul Booth


For so long the support to such varied headliners as Roy Ayers, Steve Winwood, Dave Gilmour, Terry Callier, Liane Carroll and Jim Mullen, to name but a few, drummer – and manager of The Verdict jazz club in Brighton – Tristan Banks at last steps forward to front his own band.

His idea “was to push the acoustic jazz quartet format to the limit, being able to reimagine the possibilities that the classic line-up can manifest,” bringing together some longstanding musical friends to help him in his task.

When I heard this album played live at its album launch at The Verdict in early April, what came across then was the drum-led energy of the band, its forceful, hard-driving approach. On disc, the approach is much more subtle and the drums far more integrated into the whole: indeed, there is not a drum solo to be heard. What impresses most is the musical synergy and empathy of the band, notable as the album was recorded live with no recording trickery.

All 10 pieces on the album are by the leader, and all impress for their difficult, off-beat time signatures, many Brazilian in style, and their strong melodies. Just to pick out three, Possible Bossa sounds like one of those timeless themes that have been around for ever, Dust Devil features an ingenious, looping melody, while Capelinhas has a bouncy hookline that is a delight. But each song has its individual strengths, and all bring out the best in this band. For throughout, there is a maturity to this music, a compositional strength that gives it integrity and style.

Paul Booth is on fluent form, as is the ever impressive and intense John Crawford on piano, while probably the world’s tallest bass player, Davide Mantovani, is a consistently supportive presence. On the drum stool, Banks is both initiator and inventor, steering each piece forward with great panache. If this were my debut album, I would be mighty proud.

View From Above; Ex Machina; Flex; Possible Bossa; Dust Devil; Flutter; Capelinhas; Polycephaly; Cidade Alta; Tempesta (48.14)
Paul Booth (ts, ss, f); John Crawford (p); Davide Mantovani (b); Banks (d). Gloucestershire, England, 12–13 July 2021.
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