Bob Martin International Quartet
Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
The use of "international" in jazz bands' names can often signify that one of them has come from foreign parts to lend a certain exotic appeal. Not so here. Alto saxophonist Bob Martin and drummer Rick Hollander are both Americans who have settled in Europe - the former in London, the latter in Munich - and their colleagues in this splendid group, pianist Claus Raible and bassist Martin Zenker, are Germans who would enhance pretty much any jazz situation.
Raible was the unknown quantity beforehand and his lack of previous appearances in Scotland, certainly judged on this experience, has been our loss. His improvisations on a repertoire that comprised mostly familiar items from the bebop and jazz standards canon were brilliantly constructed and his variety of touch and attack, sometimes incorporating sharp, flinty phrases into a warm, pearly chorus (or vice versa), added to the sense of freshness and spontaneity that the ensemble projected overall.
Martin himself seemed a bit under the weather - he let Hollander do the announcements - but his playing, both on ballads and uptempo numbers such as Charlie Parker's Affirmation showed superbly well-judged pacing allied to his full-toned directness. Clearly a player who follows the "learn the lyrics even if you're not singing" jazz maxim, he imbued notably crisp readings of Star Eyes and Out of Nowhere with meanings that extended into his extemporised variations on these songs' themes.
Hollander and Zenker are a terrific partnership, unobtrusive but sure when required and always responsive, with the drummer adding tom-tom and cymbal bell details that nicely emphasised a soloist's ideas and direction while swinging with a very attractive, lightly assertive propulsion.