Trombonist and composer Shannon Barnett has been away from our shores for a while now, quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) conquering the world.
Her latest CD Hype was recorded in Bonn late last year with her quartet of Stefan Karl Schmid on tenor, David Helm on double bass and drummer Fabian Arends. And it is a unique and lovely thing.
The idiosyncratic flavour of a piano-less trombone-and-tenor led quartet is evident from the opener, the title track, ‘Hype’, which grows from staggered counterpoint between Barnett and Schmid into a sinewy and Ornette-y beast. The rhythm breathes in and out, and the absence of any cloying chord allows the harmony to be stretched every which way in the solos. Schmid’s multi-lingual tenor solo here is peppered with some sharp snarls and hoarse overblowing; he is a wonderful foil for Barnett’s cool and considered solos.
‘Lembing’ is a good example of the Quartet’s use of rhythmically shifting gears. Over a supple swing they switch and clutch-shuffle the gearbox to suit the melody, then the various solos – this really shows the great ears of the rhythm section of Helm and Arends.
‘People Dont Listen to Music Anymore’ (Barnett’s titles would be worth the price of admission, even if the music wasn’t this good) moves from mournful to an Ornette Coleman-like Texas-country melody. Barnett’s solo is particularly playful yet composed, in both senses of the word, here.
Barnett writes brilliantly for jazz – there is challenge, rhythmically and melodically, but there is also space enough to move around in. ‘Speaking In Tongues’ is a good example of how her writing flows and coheres; syncopated passages play against each other, all in a world of its own logic.
Since being awarded Australian Young Jazz Artist of the Year in 2007, Shannon Barnett has gone from creative strength to strength. Unlike the majority of prodigy artists, she is a player lucky to have found her voice so young, and still continued to develop it consistently, in an elegant upward curve. Hype her third album with her Quartet is evidence of that upward developmental curve, both as a composer and as a unique instrumental voice. I look forward to watching it continue to rise.