Jonny Mansfield Quartet: Live At Pizza Express

The swinging post-bop music produced by vibist Mansfield and his quartet might have pleased Bobby Hutcherson

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Brian O’Connor welcomed the successful appearance at Brighton’s The Verdict of Mansfield (vib) and his new group with Will Barry (p), Will Sach (b) and Luke McCarthy (d). Sach had appeared on Mansfield’s July 2022 recording The Air In Front Of You while Barry and McCarthy were newcomers. Impressed by the group’s cohesion – this was only their second gig, yet they already sounded like a seasoned outfit – Brian looked forward to more from an exciting quartet “that was, as they say, going places”.

Well, here is brilliant, superbly recorded evidence of just how far the Jonny Mansfield Quartet has come, documenting as it does the final appearance, at London’s Pizza Express, of their recent extensive British tour.

In my review of the excellent The Air In Front Of You I remarked that, formidable technician that this four-mallet musician is, Mansfield could stretch out whenever he wished; yet Etude, his (delicious) solo feature on the album, lasted but a minute or so. Much as I appreciate Mansfield’s acute sensitivity to compositional factors of tempered poetry, rather than unfettered blowing, it was great to hear him really stretch out as he does here, within, across and on top of plenty of coruscating, top-notch driving energy from his splendid, most literate, thoughtful and accomplshed cohorts. And how refreshing to hear a touch and more of Monk in the concluding REM Song!

There is plenty of poised poetry here, epitomised by the hypnotic ostinato figures in (Organise) The Air In Front Of You, the opening measures of the loosely sprung, floated and kicked Flicker, and the lovely, deeply turned meditation that is the soulful Joy Tears. But the chief joy of this terrific release, which features Mansfield’s compositions throughout, lies in its faultlessly cast and fluid, diversely swinging four-way energy and drive, allied to dynamic finesse and rhythmic flexibility of the highest order.

I can’t help but think that the late, great Bobby Hutcherson would have loved this most potent, diamond-bright music. Bravo!

Discography
Flicker; Rival; (Organise) The Air In Front Of You; Joy Tears; REM Song (45.27)
Mansfield (vib); Will Barry (p); Will Sach (b); Luke McCarthy (d). London, 14 January 2024.
Resonant Postcards RP002