Jonathan Bratoëff Quartet

Tuesday 26 January 2010

By Chris Parker The Vortex

Guitarist Jonathan Bratoëff, in the 'Thoughts' section of his website, describes the basic position of a jazz musician as 'sitting between two chairs, on one hand keeping the "tradition" alive and on the other, the fact that we are living in the 21st century. The music must evolve with its time …'

Accordingly, he is constantly embarking on new projects (his three albums to date involve a quartet, electronics and larger forces, and a duo with drummer Chris Vatalaro respectively); 2010 sees him at the helm of a fresh quartet with long-time associate, bassist Tom Mason, tenor player Mark Hanslip and drummer James Maddren.

Airing new material, shortly to be released on a fourth album, Mindscape, this quartet proved an eminently suitable vehicle for Bratoëff's thoughtful, tastefully restrained but subtly powerful music: in Hanslip, he has found a kindred soul, like him capable of producing what Kevin LeGendre has memorably identified as the key elements of his art: 'an enigmatic, introspective quality … serpentine, sombre elegance'; in Maddren, a drummer adept at emphasising every nuance of rhythmic and dynamic variation; in Mason, an utterly dependable but lithe grounding force.

Bratoëff's melodies are often centred on softly descending sequences that provide useful markers in the solos to which they give rise, and both the guitarist himself and Hanslip exploited this characteristic skilfully in a delicate opener, 'Bird Dance', which slowly built in intensity courtesy of Maddren's restless probing and rustling, and later in an affecting ballad, 'Nothing Certain', in which Bratoëff's spangly guitar and Hanslip's bruised, plaintive tenor were propelled by whispering brushwork.

Interspersing meditative themes with more vigorous up-tempo (even occasionally bop-like) material, Bratoëff set out his new quartet's stall to great effect in this performance; Mindscape should prove well worth the wait.


Date 30/04/2010

Aol Music.

Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet - Mindscapes

This is the first album from Bratoeff performing under the quartet banner since 2004's Between Lines and shows off new additions to the band's line-up. On occasion, there are echoes in the guitar of Pat Metheny but also traces of John Scofield's more angular stylings. This is balanced well by the powerful saxophone of Mark Hanslip. The whole album is anchored by the rhythm section of Hanslip, bass and James Maddren on drums. With equal helpings of free improvisation and melodic exploration, this is a fine example of contemporary guitar-led jazz played with real feeling.

Rating: 7/10

(Review by Steve Grantham)


Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Jazzmann: Reviewed by: Ian Mann *****

Download from iTunes

An imaginative and colourful record and a strong contender for Bratoeff's best album yet.

Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet


(F-ire,  F-IRECD34)

French born guitarist Jonathan Bratoeff has been a member of London’s F-ire Collective since it’s inception. He has recorded a number of albums as a leader, all of them released on the Collective’s own label. These number “Episodes” (2001), “Between Lines” (2005), the electronica influenced “Points Of Perception” (2007) and most recently the duo album “Chapters” (2009) recorded with US born drummer Chris Vatalaro. “Chapters” is reviewed elsewhere on this site but my personal favourite to date is “Points Of Perception”, a fascinating album that blends traditional jazz virtues with an innovative and forward looking contemporary approach. It’s a record with a strong pictorial quality that is impressive in it’s scope. Bratoeff is also a key member of Porpoise Corpus, the exciting young band led by keyboard player Dave O’Brien.

At first sight “Mindscapes” seems to most closely resemble “Between Lines”. Like it’s predecessor it’s a quartet album with Bratoeff and bassist Tom Mason common to both records. The earlier recording featured saxophonist Pete Wareham and drummer Sebastian Rochford, both now fully committed to their numerous other projects including Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear respectively. Their places in the current edition of the Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet are tenor saxophonist Mark Hanslip of Outhouse and Loop Collective fame and young drummer of the moment James Maddren who almost appears to be in almost as many bands as the legendarily busy Rochford.

The new recruits are more than a match for their illustrious predecessors. To these ears “Mindscapes” is a more adventurous record than “Between Lines”. Some of the cinematic qualities of “Points Of Perception” are apparent on “Mindscapes” with the new album covering an impressive range of moods, colours and textures. Bratoeff is clearly continuing to mature as a writer and the playing by these exceptionally talented young musicians is consistently excellent. Apart from Bratoeff’s numerous guitar effects this is essentially an acoustic band, the beats and wide-screen effects of “Points Of Perception” are absent, but the way in which Bratoeff channels his resources makes for a fascinating mix of electric and acoustic sounds. 

The material consists of eight Bratoeff originals with the exception of three pieces under the “Mindscape” title attributed to the whole group. These I suspect are the results of group improvisations with parts one to three evenly distributed across the record.

The album begins with the attractive “Bird Dance”, a breezy, highly melodic piece that highlights the interplay between Bratoeff’s nimble guitar and Hanslip’s soulful tenor. Maddren brings his customarily immaculately detailed but subtly propulsive drumming to the proceedings with the reliable Mason acting as the group’s anchor. It’s an accomplished piece of ensemble playing with the leader’s guitar subtly dominant and taking the only bona fide solo with Hanslip also featuring strongly.

The lengthy “Transition” ranges widely and adds a rock element to Bratoeff’‘s playing. A brooding, atmospheric intro featuring both guitar and tenor leads to a more rock orientated section where dense guitar chording alternates with powerful unison riffs. Bratoeff then takes a soaring solo before Hanslip takes over, blowing economically above Mason’s powerful bass groove and Maddren’s nimble drumming. As the momentum builds the intricate unison lines return but in a piece that lives up to it’s title the opening theme eventually returns leading to a shimmering coda. This is a shifting magnum opus that holds the listener’s attention throughout and demonstrates the increasing maturity of Bratoeff’s writing.

“Mindscape Part 1” is altogether more abstract and almost certainly freely improvised. Hanslip blows long lines above the leader’s FX laden guitar, some of them sounding like a distorted human voice. Mason uses his bow to both strike and bow the strings and Maddren adds extra colour with his percussion shadings. As a whole it’s eerie and vaguely unsettling.

“Fallen Colossus” marks a return to more overtly tuneful territory with it’s tricky bop inspired theme. Bratoeff’s guitar solo adds a more contemporary influence and Hanslip solos forcefully but melodically over Maddren’s fast, colourful, ever shifting drum accents. Mason, so often the backbone of the group also features strongly. 

As its title might suggest “Ephemeral Light” is more about mood creation. There is a painterly quality about Bratoeff’s writing here that provides the canvas for a moving and resonant solo from the excellent Mason. Subsequently Hanslip’s tenor smoulders above Bratoeff’s sympathetic chording and Maddren’s delicate brush work. 

Maddren and Mason’s busy odd meter grooves on “Moving Lines” provide the springboard for Bratoeff’s feverish, rock influenced soloing. Hanslip also shows up strongly and there is something of a feature for the colourful drumming of Maddren.

“Mindscape Part 2” mirrors the atmosphere of it’s predecessor but strays further into spacey, ambient territory.

“Nothing Certain” is the album’s ballad with Hanslip’s tone now warm, lush and conversational. Bratoeff brings similar qualities to his own playing and solos delicately and tastefully. Mason’s rounded bass tones and Maddren’s mainly brushed support work are appropriately sympathetic.

“Pluton N’est Plus” is similarly warm in tone but ups the tempo a little with Bratoeff’ soloing gracefully above Maddren’s immaculately detailed drum undertow. Hanslip is pithy and incisive and Mason also solos, combining a huge tone with remarkable agility.

“Mindscape Part 3” is a brief thrash, coming in at less than a minute and originally probably part of something bigger. It’s lot more listenable than the initial premise might suggest.

Mason’s solo bass introduces the closing “Echeance” with Bratoeff subsequently taking an unhurried and elegant solo.  Hanslip follows him, the two later coalescing on the almost anthemic coda.

“Mindscapes” is an imaginative, colourful record with some excellent but understated playing and is a strong contender for Bratoeff’s best album yet. It shows the leader continuing to mature as a composer in a well balanced programme that covers a wide range of moods and textures within a recognisable group sound. The three group improvisations provide a nice contrast with the more formal written material.

Bratoeff’s website suggests that the quartet have been playing together for some time and “Mindscapes” certainly suggests a band with a strong group identity, the musicians comfortable with each other’s playing. A word too for Bratoeff’s sometime musical collaborator Chris Vatalaro, who acts here as engineer and comes up with a pinpoint mix that serves the quartet well.

Disc of the day: 13-05-10 The Jazz breakfast

May 13, 2010 By Peter Bacon

Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet: Mindscapes (F-IRECD 34)

The second disc from guitarist Jonathan Bratoeff’s band finds a change in personnel since
Between The Lines – now we have Mark Hanslip on tenor, Tom Mason on bass and James Maddren on drums.

All the compositions are Bratoeff’s, with the exception of a couple of the three parts of the title track, all atmospheric, free group improvs, and they show the guitarist covering a wide range with influences from Latin and African jazz as well as the usual time-tricky modern stuff.

Take Fallen Colossus – it slows and speeds with Maddren tight as always and the whole band managing to keep a relaxed feel and flow even while negotiating the tricky turns and switchbacks. The leader goes full steam ahead with the kind of jazz-rock sound we know from players like Mike Walker.

But on Ephemeral Light, Bratoeff investigates his more familiar sustain mode and rich chord structures on a lovely, spacey intro before Mason comes in to state the theme.

Hanslip is an ideal choice as hornman in a band like this – he has the harmonic originality for the tricksy stuff but also the rich tone and lyrical sense for the more  reflective pieces. My favourite track, though it is late in the evening and time for something more reflective, is Nothing Certain.

Jonathan Bratoëff Quartet: Mindscapes


John Fordham *****

Guardian: Wednesday 23 June 2010 23.29 BST

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Jonathan Bratoeff Quartet

Mindscape F-ire 2010



The young, London-resident French guitarist Bratoëff has moved between lean, briskly executed contemporary postbop and a more abstract electro-acoustic music of slowly unfolding motifs and whispery percussion. This fine set mixes both, and is a continuation of the music he made on Between Lines (2005), also featuring bassist Tom Mason – but here saxophonist Mark Hanslip comes in for Pete Wareham, and young drum star James Maddren for Seb Rochford. It's a mix of purposeful avant-swing and drily eloquent sax and guitar solos alongside collectively improvised sections and patient explorations that avoid Bratoëff's tendency to drift. Bird Dance is a lyrical, long-winding guitar/sax theme over Maddren's light cymbal flickers; Bratoëff's echoey sound mirrors Hanslip's on the Wayne Shorterish track Transition; and the three improvised accounts of the title track explore fading hoots, metallic shimmers and synth chords. They give the set real contrast, wrapped around elegant ballads and some lively swing and Latin vehicles for Bratoëff's surging, dark-toned solos, and the whole venture has a more improvisationally relaxed and richly composed feel than its predecessor.

Jazzwise June 2010 issue 142

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