A Journey Through Standards
The Shannon Barnett Quartet’s latest album, “Alive at Loft” (KLAENG Records 077 CD), showcases their unique interpretation of jazz standards. The album, recorded at the renowned Loft club in Cologne, features an interesting selection of well-known and lesser-known tunes.
The Quartet’s Formation and Background
Shannon Barnett, an Australian trombonist hailing from Melbourne, moved to Cologne, Germany in 2014 to join the WDR Big Band’s trombone section. She held this position until 2018, and during her time there, she also formed her own quartet with Cologne-based musicians. The group has since recorded several albums since 2016. Barnett was appointed as a Professor of Trombone at the Cologne Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in 2019.
The Album: A Unique Blend of Standards
“Alive at Loft” features a diverse selection of songs, including famous standards like “Weaver of Dreams” and “Alone Together,” as well as more unconventional choices such as Ornette Coleman’s “When Will The Blues Leave?,” Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,” and Roberta Flack’s “Ballad of the Sad Young Men.” The album also includes a track titled “Hypochrismutreefuzz,” presumably inspired by the LA-based noise rock duo of the same name.
A Commitment to Originality and Openness
Barnett expressed initial hesitation in accepting the invitation to record an album of standards, given her quartet’s dedication to performing original material with a high degree of openness. Nevertheless, the group’s interpretations of these classics demonstrate their ability to adapt and develop strong, logical lines with intriguing twists and changes of direction.
The freedom in their approach to the standards becomes more apparent as the album progresses. On “Alone Together,” Barnett starts playing over bassist David Helm’s lines before drummer Fabian Arends joins in, resulting in a fairly free solo that never quite ventures into the completely avant-garde territory. In contrast, the track “Heaven” showcases more straightforward, lyrical playing.
A Testament to the Cologne Jazz Scene
Shannon Barnett leads a skilled quartet that has continually built and developed over the years. Their commitment to the same personnel allows for a sense of cohesion and growth. In “Alive at Loft,” the quartet successfully tackles the challenge of interpreting material beyond their usual repertoire, resulting in an engaging album that highlights the vibrancy of the Cologne jazz scene.