April 20, 2024

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CD review: Pat Smythe Quartet – New Dawn: Live 1973 – 2024: Video, CD cover

Previously unreleased and captured in 1973, “New Dawn” by the Pat Smythe Quartet offers a rare glimpse into a pivotal moment in jazz fusion history, particularly for fans of guitarist Allan Holdsworth.

Recorded across two dates in France, the eight-track album showcases the virtuosic quartet at the intersection of jazz fusion, jazz rock, and Latin American influences, featuring an early and electrifying performance by Holdsworth, a pioneer of the genre.

Pat Smythe (piano/electric piano): A veteran of Joe Harriott’s groundbreaking ensemble, Smythe’s avant-garde sensibilities underpin the quartet’s fusion experiments.

Allan Holdsworth (guitar): This early recording captures Holdsworth on the cusp of his meteoric rise, showcasing his already-astonishing technical brilliance and emotive playing that would later reshape the landscape of fusion guitar.

Daryl Runswick (double bass): Navigating both classical and contemporary realms, Runswick’s versatile basslines provide a steady foundation for the ensemble’s sonic explorations.

John Marshall (drums): Steeped in the avant-garde tradition, Marshall’s percussive mastery, honed in acts such as Graham Collier, Nucleus and Soft Machine, adds rhythmic complexity to the quartet’s sound.

The eight tracks on “New Dawn” traverse a vibrant spectrum of influences, encompassing jazz fusion, jazz rock, and even Latin American rhythms. Opening with Holdsworth’s “Golden Lakes,” the album then delves into Smythe’s compositions, like “Rank’s Vibe” and “Village Greene,” showcasing the interplay between his piano work and Holdsworth’s guitar.

Edu Lobo’s “Casa Forte” provides a brief but captivating detour into Latin territory, while Holdsworth’s own “Floppy Hat” pushes the boundaries of fusion with its intricate textures. In contrast, “Waiting For The Walrus” offers a glimpse into the quartet’s avant-garde roots, harking back to Smythe’s early days with Joe Harriott.

However, it’s the title track, “New Dawn,” and the collaborative epic “British Rail” that truly encapsulate the heart of the album. These compositions serve as prime examples of the quartet’s ability to merge Smythe’s avant-garde past with the burgeoning sounds of the future.

“New Dawn: Live 1973” stands as a significant contribution to the history of jazz fusion. It documents a pivotal moment in the Pat Smythe Quartet’s trajectory, showcasing their mastery of the genre and their willingness to push its boundaries. As listeners delve into this rediscovered treasure, they gain a deeper understanding of the innovative spirit that defined the group and the broader fusion movement of the 1970s.

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