CD Review: The Seed Habit- Keijzer McGuiness Quintet

The Seed Habit
Review by Charles Lidgard – Keijzer McGuiness Quintet
Rufus Records, RF079, 2009.

The Keijzer McGuiness Quintet takes its name from a combination of Dutchman Remco Keijzer (tenor saxophone) and Australian Lucian McGuiness (trombone). In addition to Keijzer and McGuiness, the quintet consists of Matt McMahon (rhodes/piano), Mike Majkowski (bass) and James Hauptmann (drums). The Seed Habit is the quintet’s first release. The tracks, all originals, were composed by Keijzer and McGuiness, who collaborated over three years and two countries to write the songs.

There is something very special about transatlantic collaboration – it brings with it all the trials of composing and working in isolation and all the joys that come when all parties meet to bring life to those compositions. Knowing that the connection is fleeting brings a certain poignancy to the way in which the songs are interpreted; the compositions have at their core, a certain wistfulness or nostalgia.

The title of the album takes its name from a biological process concerning the life-cycle of seeds and plant reproduction. It is within that context that the album came to be. Remco Keijzer and Lucian McGuiness planted the seed of an idea in a little café, the Vlinder, in the middle of Amsterdam. That seed unfolded and grew to become The Seed Habit.

As co-leaders of the quintet, McGuiness and Keijzer work incredibly well together, playing the compelling, often insistent heads of each song in tight unison. McGuiness’ trombone provides a breathless texture to the supporting saxophone which weaves about over and under the melody.

‘Pigis’ is an immediate hit. Penned by McGuiness, it has a memorable melody and the makings of a classic theme, reminiscent even of the great standards. Its dynamics are explored to great effect by Keijzer‘s bursts of saxophone, which takes the theme and bends it, each run increasing in intensity, bringing the song to a dramatic crescendo. He never wavers from the intent of the melody and it’s a joy to hear him let go and soar above the rigorous structure. McMahon’s luscious tone comps on Hauptmann’s solid downbeat before giving way to Majkowski’s deft fretboard work. Majkowski is a phenomenal double bassist who understands the importance of delivering what is right for the song.

McMahon’s understated rhodes is a delight – his solo break on ‘Apple S’ for example. At times the rhodes takes on the role of guitar, a slightly distorted sound behind the moving themes of McGuiness and Keijzer. He uses space to explore the melodic possibilities before ceding way to Keijzer’s saxophone. ‘Apple S’ is a good example of the balance the quintet has – musically there are no definite leaders, each musician working together, enjoying the fleeting moment.

‘Get Out’ is a complicated workout in the modern bop tradition, with rapid call and response between sax and trombone.

‘GC for CP’ is toe-tapping fun with both feet firmly in the groove camp. Rhodes, drums and bass never sounded so hip.
Strangely, ‘Natte Worteltjes’ begins with a solid reggae feel, interspersed with sax and trombone, before moving into a busy, rhythmical maelstrom.

Featuring beautiful cover art by Robèrt Guérain and memorable compositions, The Seed Habit is an outstanding debut from a band destined for great things, providing they can manage the tyranny of distance. The compositions have a maturity to them that belie the musician’s years and the tonal qualities and the band’s sound is contemporary and refreshing.

–o0o–