Konrad Wiszniewski's recent success with his New Focus project has stimulated considerable expectations for the next chapter in the saxophonist's career and while it would be unreasonable to expect a quartet would present the same range of colours as the New Focus nine-piece, with its jazz quartet, string quartet, harp configuration, there's certainly a sense of continuity in this group.
For a start, Wiszniewski's New Focus partner, pianist Euan Stevenson provides not just the perfect complement to the saxophonist's keenness to burn-up excitement on solos but also an improvising presence with a marvellous narrative quality that enhances the music's sense of journeying. Drummer Alyn Cosker is also a New Focus hold-over and brings a familiar dynamic awareness, and the one "outsider" - although far from a stranger - bassist Mario Caribe can give an impression of a string section through his arco playing.
The music, much of it drawn from Wiszniewski's imminent album, Illuminate, was strong, with Happy Dance delivering what its title suggests and the more impressionistic Cold Sand, Warm Sky featuring a superbly realised, Debussy-esque intro from Stevenson that set up the quartet's main section with class.
Modern Times/BBC SSO
City Halls, Glasgow
Modern Times is the perfect choice for the latest in the series of great silent films accompanied by the BBC SSO. Charlie Chaplin composed the score himself and even sings at one point on what is technically a silent film. It is as much about music as it is about comedy and the SSO, and conductor Timothy Brock, embrace that. They love this film, and it shows.
Brock explained some of the context in his introduction. Chaplin wanted to compose the score because he wanted to control everything; he was a perfectionist who drove almost everyone to distraction. In the case of Modern Times, it meant playing on the violin and having a composer write down the tunes (Chaplin had no formal training). It took six months in a world in which a film composer is allowed at most a couple of weeks.
But it worked: Modern Times is the last great silent film and looks stunning and youthful in this restored version and, although it lacks plot, it includes some fine routines (Chaplin trying to keep up with the conveyor belt, Chaplin skating blindfold).
In the famous factory scene in which the little tramp becomes lost in the machinery, the music is part of the comedy (tubas as pistons, violins as chains and so forth) which is a lot of fun, but there is pathos too as there always is in Chaplin's films. Smile, the song that became almost as famous as the film, is a drop of delicacy amid all the clanging and slapstick. And it works because perfectionism, from creator, composer and performers, is always worth it.