Jeff Siege Siegel Quartet - London Live

Label: ARC, 2018

Personnel - Erica Lindsay: tenor saxophone; Francesca Tanksley: piano; Uli Langthaler: bass; Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel: drums.


Drummer Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel, a sculptor of rhythm with a tendency to spiritual post-bop and gospel-inflected modalism, showcases London Live, an 8-track album recorded at the Pizza Express Jazz Club on the last night of a 2010 European quartet tour. The band features habitual co-workers Erica Lindsay on tenor saxophone and Francesca Tanksley on piano, both contributing with originals, plus Vienna-based bassist Uli Langthaler.

Lindsay-penned “Meet Me at The Station” anchors in a radiant modal jazz, evoking the work of Coltrane, McCoy, and Chico Freeman. The piece has Siegel’s effervescent drumming highlighting ride cymbal attacks and evincing a natural ability to swing distinctively. The quartet maintains the Coltrane invocations and spiritual connotations on Tanksley’s exuberant “A New Freedom”, in which the saxophonist embarks on circular agitation and angular figures, having the pianist building harmonic blocks with perfect pedal-points. Defining the layer beneath with magical tension, Tanksley works together with the bandleader and Langthaler, who both improvise after employing skittering percussive methods and grooving pizzicatos, respectively.

If Siegel’s “Art’s Message” follows a blues-based modal form to honor the inspiring drummer Art Blakey, then “Crescent Sound” opens with the bandleader dancing on the toms before adding cymbals in an Elvin Jones-inspired drum solo. A brief hard-swinging passage holds up Lindsay’s rhythmically inventive improv fueled by crisp exclamations, which totally come to a halt when Tanksley takes the lead. Having just bass as accompaniment, she becomes unpredictably bluesy prior to the reinstatement of the avant-gardish short theme. 
Tranquility is found not only on Coltrane’s “Peace On Earth”, which opens with a bass solo, but also on “M Song”, a ballad Siegel wrote for his wife, implementing harmonic movements typical from jazz standards.

With the exceptional level of interplay that characterize them, the band renders the African American spiritual “I Want Jesus To Walk With Me”, arranged by tenorist Arthur Rhames, with rock-steady tonalities and a riveting pose.

Even if not so strong as last year's King of Xhosa, London Live has an uplifting quality deriving from a rich combination of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic senses that also shows the generous and thoughtful temperament of Siegel’s compositional style.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Meet Me at The Station ► 02 - A New Freedom ► 04 - I Want Jesus To Walk With Me

Jeff Siege Siegel - King of Xhosa

Erica Lindsay: saxophone; Francesca Tanksley: piano; Rich Syracuse: bass; Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel: drums + guests Feya Faku: trumpet; Fred Barryhill: percussion.


A freeing intersection of cultures is used as a premise for Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel Quartet’s magnificent album, King of Xhosa.
In this recording, Siegel, an experienced drummer, composer, and educator living in Woodstock, New York, welcomes the South African trumpeter Feya Faku and the percussionist Fred Barryhill as his personal guests. 
His gripping quartet benefits from the presence of amazing improvisers such as the pianist Francesca Tanksley and the saxophonist Erica Lindsay. Siegel works closely with the bassist Rich Syracuse, with whom he establishes the primary foundations to better serve the improvisers.

The album, starting and finishing at the sound of short pieces centered in African percussion, has its first great moment in “Prayer”, whose spiritual spell and organic clamor are reminiscent of Billy Harper’s harmonic structures. This is not surprising since Tanksley, who composed the tune, is part of the latter’s current quintet. Faku opens the improvisational section, spreading persuasive melodic phrases; Lindsay boasts her rippling dialect by playing in and out; Tanksley is exemplary and exhilarating in her style.

The title track, a Siegel’s original, is driven with a Latin feel and invites us to the vicious quadrature of its musical web. It thrives by exalting the spirit through rapturous solos and a taut sense of interplay.
Tanksley’s “Life on the Rock” changes the mood adopted till then, preferring a swinging rhythm to support its author’s post-bop whims. In addition to the usual suspects, Syracuse adventures himself in his first solo.

Faku contributes with three of his own tunes. His trumpet fills up in “Courage”, an introspective and enchanting small anthem that contrasts with the stirring, Italian-style “Unsung”.
Things cool down with Siegel’s “Ballad of the Innocent”, but the fire doesn’t wait too long to be relit. It happens with a couple of tunes by Lindsay: “Gotta Get To It”, a generous entreaty, and especially “Call to Spirits”, a yearning, often oneiric, and vitally percussive imploration, here magnified by the avant-gardish phrases of the tenorist.
Through “Erica’s Bag”, Siegel steps on Latin ground, just to end up trading fours with his peers. To conclude the session, the blues-drenched “Get Real” is dispensed with heart and dynamism.

King of Xhosa is a little gem that bursts with the verve of a quartet in top form. It’s not uncommon to hear fractions of Harper, McCoy, and Coltrane in this healing amalgam of modal music, avant-garde, and post-bop. 
Joy for the ears, food for the soul.

         Grade  A+

         Grade A+

Favorite Tracks:
02 – Prayer ► 03 – King of Xhosa ► 09 – Call to Spirits