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Cobblestone Jazz - The Modern Deep Left Quartet




Following the release of their well-received debut album ’23 Seconds’ in 2007, Cobblestone Jazz are back with ‘The Modern Deep Left Quartet’. Indeed as this title suggests, Jazz are now ‘officially’  four. The studio line-up welcomes Colin de la Plante to the debut-album Jazz trio of Mathew Jonson, Danuel Tate and Tyger Dhula. I say ‘official’ since de la Plante has in fact been playing live with the other three musicians for almost 15 years, with the title of the second album taking their stage name.

Cobblestone Jazz record as they perform due the utilisation of analogue machines for their sound and their preference for spontaneity when recording. This reflects the band’s jazz influences. The fined-honed, tight, polished sound that you hear is hence not the result of over-production. Instead, the band jam endlessly until they hit on a piece that they are happy with. The Rhodes’ electric piano solos, courtesy of Danuel Tate, are laid down and recorded separately.

The Cobblestone Jazz sound works very well in a live setting. Until I saw and heard it for myself, I never thought that a piano, in particular jazz piano, could work alongside a heavy minimal techno sound. But they somehow made it work, and the end product blew me away. While sounding vaguely derivative in parts, ’23 Seconds’ is  accomplished while somehow sounding fresh. The second offering, unfortunately, blows cold on me despite my high expectations and the accompanying hype.

So where did it go wrong? To begin, the record sounds strangely lifeless even though it is supposed to have been recorded in an almost live setting. Second, and perhaps more pertinently, while there are some interesting ideas in all the tracks and an admirable heterogeneity across the album, it seems to tread on ground much traversed by numerous other electronic artists over the years. In other words it does not sound as fresh as the first album.

Take the opener, ‘Sun Child’. It has a nice Balearic vibe to it, with housey beats and groovy vocals, very much a chip off the 23-Second-block in fact. My problem is that it never seems to actually go anywhere unlike many of the tracks on the first album. It peters out to be met with ‘Children’, which thankfully, should not be confused with the song of the same name by Robert Miles. This is a more solid, straightforward bass-driven track with hypnotic overtones.

Moving on from the forgettable ‘Light Spike’, ‘Mr Polite’ has a dirty, low-down Detroit, evil after-hours come and sit-on-my-knees vibe. Definitely the stand-out track for me, and worth buying as a 12” should it come out on that format. ‘Cromagnon Man’ follows in a similar vein if less majestic and more predictable than ‘Mr Polite’.  ‘Midnight Sum’ completes the album, taking things down a notch to almost chilled-out Balearic feel again. Now this is fine but something that might make it onto an Ibiza lounge mix compilation in 2003 is not necessarily something you might want to buy if looking for something fresh to listen to in 2010.

Charlie Palmer


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