CD Review | Quoan's "Fine Dining" by Alex W. Rodriguez
This recording, the first by this particular constellation of longtime collaborators with ties to southern California, draws on the illustrious lineage of the piano-less quartet, bringing the format into conversation with starkly contemporary trends. The group was formed by trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom and clarinetist Brian Walsh, both active performers and organizers of creative music in the Los Angeles area. They are joined by bassist Sam Minaie and drummer Mark Ferber, who are now based in New York.
The group’s sound evinces a muscular, intentional approach, grounded in groove-based collective improvisation and angular twists of melody that reference contemporary classical music. Walsh’s clarinet improvisations thrive in this environment; his impeccable technique allows him to glide through impossible flourishes as well as to control subtle shifts in timbre. The rest of the group also stretches the timbral limits of their respective instruments, allowing a range of expression that brings something fresh to the piano-less quartet format—this is most evident on the playfully abstract title track, as well as in short miniatures such as “Gnomish,” “Fist” and “Witch’s Butter.” These pieces are full of energy, cathartic wails, intense interactivity and propulsive grooves—a tour de force, for sure. The group is less convincing in the more spacious, vulnerable moments, such as on the final piece, “Braids and Brooms.” But this does not detract from the impressive degree of playful, virtuosic excitement that they generate. Taken together, this recording showcases an authoritative, 21st-century interpretation of what two horn players, a bassist, and a drummer can do together.