Neil Whitford-Guitar, Hayoun Lee-Piano, Matthew Roberts-Bass,
Mackenzie Longpre-Drums & Alexandra Tait-Vocals
‘Not only are these four powerhouse musicians, but they all happen to be strong and unique composers as well.’ This was the impression of the Live Music Report when reviewing a recent Circles Quartet performance. It serves well to summarize what the quartet is about – immersive, energetic, improvisational jazz performance, with an emphasis also on exploring original composition. Through a deep respect for the history of jazz, and an awareness of the current innovations and trends of jazz, music, and beyond, Circles seeks to investigate how these elements can be deconstructed and recombined into new possibilities, with the hope of contributing to the emerging voice of a new generation of young jazz musicians.
The Circles Quartet was spearheaded when bassist Matthew Roberts, while studying music at Humber College in Toronto, decided to form a steady group to explore his original compositions. Soon pianist and classmate Hayoun Lee also began to add his own compositional style to the blend. University of Toronto alumni guitarist Neil Whitford joined in the summer of 2007, and since then the three have contributed equally in presenting a rapidly expanding catalogue of original music, in performances described as ‘fresh, luminously dark, glorious, delicious, and energetic through any tempo.’ The three compositional voices form a chemistry that Live Music Report found remarkable: ‘Every tune had a different feel and form, yet they were cohesive and complementary in a set.’
In the summer of 2008, Roberts, Lee, and Whitford, with the addition of drummer Nico Dann, along with special guests Alexandra Tait (vocals) and Terry Quinney (saxophone), headed into the studio. The resulting critically acclaimed 79-minute album showcases the band’s wide influences. Listeners may detect the inspiration of Dave Holland in Roberts’ How To Walk On Water, or Kenny Wheeler in Whitford’s Little Candles, or even Radiohead in the title track, Lee’s I Understand.
With each performance, the quartet’s chemistry grows as they continue to create and explore new territory. They hope to continue and expand this growth through a Canadian tour and further studio recording, planned for the summer of 2009.