The Convergence Quartet Live in Oxford

Live in Oxford is the work of four young players: cornettist Taylor Ho Bynum, pianist Alex Hawkins, bassist Dom Lash and Toronto’s own Harris Eisenstadt on drums, exploring what the jazz tradition might still mean, a century after the music’s birth. Many players tackle this dilemma by translating their sense of information overload and belatedness into pastiche and hyper-collage. The Convergence Quartet, however, keep their music lean and purposeful, as if to boil overly familiar styles down to their core principles and energies. Despite the group’s small size and penchant for free improvisation, there’s a surprisingly Ellingtonian flavour here, a similar sense of the enormous resources of colour and personality available within the ensemble. Certainly there’s no mistaking the kinship between Bynum’s growls and droll lyricism and the jazz surrealism of Rex Stewart and Tricky Sam Nanton. This is not an easy album to get a grip on by any means but it poses more questions about the future of jazz (and finds more viable answers) than many flashier releases from the past year. (FMR)