Matt Ridley Trio
Whirlwind Recordings ****
“Piano trio-plus” is something that we’ve been hearing a lot about recently, and while that little “+” sign can mean a lot of different things, here on bassist Ridley’s debut the extra element is the world music from the Caucasus added in small quantities and the addition of saxophone, oud, and extra percussion. Thymos is Greek for ‘spiritedness’ and this really is a spirited record and one with a great many good ideas interestingly executed. Ridley, a Trinity College of Music graduate in 2005, is joined by the rising star pianist John Turville and relative unknown George Hart on drums; and while still in the early part of his career Ridley has already worked extensively as a member of the Darius Brubeck Quartet touring widely, and has appeared with the MJQ Celebration band. Guests, oudist Attab Haddad, alto saxophone star Jason Yarde, and percussionist Vasilis Sirkis, are another part of the ‘plus factor’ and make their presence count in the latter part of the record.

Recorded last year the album opens with ‘Siamese Twins’, which becomes a dialogue between Ridley and Turville with Hart’s drumming in the multi-directional style temporarily; and Ridley powering up: he has a certain charisma and he fits well into the Jasper Høiby and Grant Russell (GoGo Penguin) school of what a double bass player can really stand for, certainly not someone who lurks in the shadows plunking away modestly but more of a front man. Ridley’s short stabby phrases in an abstract swirl set the scene well but it’s something of a surprise how melodic the album becomes with ‘Theme and Variations’ the musicians really conjuring something out of the air in terms of a tune that again Turville and Ridley manage to explore. Yarde takes up the theme quite beautifully on ‘Homage to Kenny Wheeler’ and this bittersweet element in Ridley’s writing adds some logical development to the opening tunes. Later on ‘Siddhartha’, Turville’s solo sets up an elaborate exploration where the sheer energy of the trio is allowed to reveal itself gradually with the extra stretch in the metre of the composition allowing the band extra room, a bit like the way Phronesis can quickly move through the gears into open space. Armenian/Azerbaijani folk song ‘Sari Gelin’ with oud and extra percussion is a great bonus, and Yarde adds an air of mystery and elaborate improvisational decoration that is quite gripping. The bass-led title track is the trio’s main showcase and Turville really shines here with Haddad taking up the running on ‘Hijaz’, a heartfelt lament written by Baku-born violinist Sabina Rakcheyeva. Ridley has made a stirring debut here and his future on the scene seems very bright after this fine start. SG
Released on 14 October