Wandering Monster: Wandering Monster

review wandering monster x1 cong

This impressive modern jazz debut comes from bassist Sam Quintana, who leads the Wandering Monster quintet, and the CD opens with his confident double bass to the fore.

Wandering Monster were winners of the 2016/17 Jazz North Introduces Award and have supported bands including Trio HLK and Mammal Hands. The sound is clearly jazz but it’s got its feet in a more rock-based sound, so there’s little of the bop but a lot of the prog/funk of the 70s, all the while sounding modern. It’s really cool, too (a word we this week discovered was popularised by jazz saxophonist Lester Young).

The opener is Samsara, a Sanskrit word for “wandering” — see what they did there? — although in Buddhism it’s the cycle of repeated birth, existence and dying again, and thus unsatisfactory, which this collection is far from. The Press release says Quintana’s compositions reflect the “inner monsters” everyone bears, so there’s probably something of the Buddhist meaning in there, and Samsara features an initial motif that disappears for improvisation and is then reborn towards the end of the tune. Yes, it’s all that clever.

Quintana has composed the tunes and leads the band — Ben Powling on tenor saxophone, Calvin Travers on guitar, Tom Higham on drums and Aleks Podraza on piano and keyboards — and it’s all impressive, both the playing and the composition. There’s not a dull moment.

Jazz fans will like this but fans of more adventuresome rock should do, too. It’s always interesting what we play after listening to something new, the subconscious DJ linking new and old: in the case of Wandering Monster it was a sudden urge to play German band Can, whose avant-garde experimental sound also took in jazz and funk (and predated the Stone Roses by decades with Halleluhwah).

Given that Quintana is a bassist, the whole album is rhythm-led, if not percussive, and very sharp, the band playing tightly as a band throughout, while letting the various members show off their individual skills. Impressive.

This is out on Ubuntu Music, UBU0023.

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