Lovely new review by the great Ken Waxman of SETT (the string quartet with John Edwards on double bass, Benedict Taylor on viola, Daniel Thompson and Dirk Serries on acoustic guitars). Published on TheWholeNote.
“Probably the answer to the question, “when is a string quartet not a string quartet?” is illustrated on SETT’s First and Second (New Wave of Jazz nwoj033 newwaveofjazz.com) during two extended improvisations. Consisting of one linchpin of the traditional string ensemble, the viola, played by the UK’s Benedict Taylor, the disc stretches the chamber music staple’s role by including a double bass, played by Briton John Edwards, and breaks the mould by adding the two acoustic guitars of England’s Daniel Thompson and Belgium’s Dirk Serries. Mercurial and harsh without being coarse, and fluid without depending on an expected groove, both polyphonic tracks contain numerous sequences of both calm and agitation. As viola and bass move through spiccato sweeps and ratcheting pressure, it’s often dual guitar strums which steady the pace and shepherd squeaks, slaps and shakes from all the players into crescendos of jagged glissandi and, later on, speedy intersection. Second SETT is more assured than the First as the collective guitar licks, plus swelling plucks from the bass, set up a clanking backdrop upon which Taylor’s stridently pitched strokes ascend to spectacular flanges. By midpoint, buzzing arco pushes and taut guitar finger picking define a communicative theme. With Edwards’ plucks creating an ambulating ostinato, the narrative stays constant to the end, while allowing for a series of stressed variations from the violist and some below-the-bridge plinks from the guitarists that almost strip strings of their coating. As spiccato sweeps rub against muted glissandi, SETT defines a form that is both exploratory and connected.”