The Hive - Common Quartet
  1. Zam
  2. Lem
  3. Gemmi
  4. Don’t Hide
  5. Traffic Song
  1. En Otro Lugar
  2. Lazybird
  3. Empty Castle
  4. Big Foot

by Dennis Winge

In jazz, the idea of a band that has steady members is nowhere near as pervasive as in other genres such as rock and pop. But famous jazz artists such as Miles, Coltrane, Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, and many more have demonstrated that having a regular group can do wonders for taking the collective sound further than it could go if the musicians were just picked up for one recording date or string of gigs.

The Common Quartet, which played regularly every Monday night in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY, clearly shows that playing together regularly can really develop a group’s overall ‘sound.’ Each of first four compositions on the Quartet’s debut “The Hive,” is composed by a different band member. That alone shows that the direction of the band is clearly collective, and the results are a remarkable versatility that remains cohesive.

From the very first track “Zam” composed by saxophonist Seth Trachy, the quartet shows how they can take a relatively sparse melody and build on it effortlessly. On the next tune, “Lam,” composed by bassist Pablo Menares, the group is joined by guitarist Steve Cardenas, who not only solos melodically, takes over the comping duties during the saxophone solo, but also adds to the ‘head’ of the tune by playing the melody in unison with Trachy.

Pianist Nitzan Gavrielli introduces quite a thought-provoking, tango-like piece called “Gemmi” which climaxes in a suspenseful vamp and an almost haunting piano cadenza to close the tune. And, not to be excluded from contributing compositions to the album, drummer Alex Wyatt, whose crisp and tasteful accompaniment permeates the CD, provides two tunes. The melody on “Don’t Hide” is so smooth that you can hardly tell the tune is in an odd time signature (9/8).

Other highlights of the disc are the group’s effortless originality in interpreting two standards: “Lazy Bird” by Coltrane, and “Bigfoot” by Charlie Parker, as well as pianist Gavrieli’s “Traffic Song,” the stops and starts of whose melody definitely suggests a day of New York City traffic, that is until Trachy weaves in and out of it deftly in his solo.

All in all, the Common Quartet takes the long-lost “we are a band” attitude back into jazz, and gives us an original sound that allows each player to contribute quite diverse elements and still remains cohesive as a sound. We look forward to hearing more from this not-so-common quartet.

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