QOW Trio: The Hold Up

Brighton-based tenor, bass and drums trio builds convincingly on the styles developed by Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman in the late 1950s


It’s no mystery that the inspiration for this album is Sonny Rollins, specifically from the late 50s period that produced The Freedom Suite and Live At The Village Vanguard. By dispensing with the piano, Rollins felt he achieved greater freedom, avoiding restrictions of harmony, and here the QOW Trio follow that premise.

Despite the openness, it’s essentially ensemble music, not only in the Rollins style, but redolent of Ornette Coleman’s similarly pianoless group. Bassist Eddie Myer and drummer Spike Wells are clearly geared to this approach, building tensions within the trio, as the musicians sense each other’s shapes and directions and respond accordingly, effectively providing the opportunity for individual expression within a tightly focused framework.

In this, Myer moves independently whilst recognising the importance of supporting and complementing soloists, often with a walking line or weaving patterns through and beyond. His contribution on Jackie McLean’s Hip Strut is a case in point, simple and straight to the point, as is Bright Mississippi, in which the melody of Sweet Georgia Brown is carved up, dismantled and reassembled in suitably Monkish fashion.

Elder statesman Spike Wells mixes his well-established credentials of bop drumming with constantly freer rhythmic movement, using a full range of techniques and all the components of his kit: evenly spaced snare and bass drum patterns are embellished with shimmering cymbals, rim shots and tom toms. He solos regularly but never over-extendedly, maintaining the collective momentum of the music.

At the apex of the triangle is Riley Stone-Lonergan’s tenor, which quickly develops themes, his slight edge a warning of impending turbulence and intensity. Equally, he creates passages of lyrical beauty, as on The Starcrossed Lovers, his singing, sinuous lines Hodges-esque, befitting the Strayhorn/Ellington composition, and on the short but haunting Hard Times Come Again No More. He evens throws in a passing reference to East Broadway Rundown on Bastard Gentlemen and there’s further hat-tipping to another Rollins pianoless album, Way Out West, with I’m An Old Cowhand, as if to reaffirm their source of inspiration.

The Brighton-based band tour from February (see their live dates here) and are well worth looking out for. Meanwhile this sets the bar high for album of the year. It’ll take some beating.

High Noon; The Hold Up; I Gotta Grape Drink; The Starcrossed Lovers; Along Came John; Hip Strut; Our Man Higgins; Bastard Gentlemen; Bright Mississippi; Hard Times Come Again No More; Straight Ahead; I’m An Old Cowhand (53.15)
Eddie Myer (b); Spike Wells (d); Riley Stone-Lonergan (ts). London, 2023.
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