Stan Sulzmann - tenor
and soprano sax, flute
One of the UK`s most respected sax players, Stan is particularly known for his long associations with Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor. Recently he has led his big band, featuring the cream of Britain's jazz scene in his original compositions.
Chris Biscoe - alto and
soprano sax; alto clarinet
An extremely versatile and accomplished reeds player, Biscoe has performed, toured and recorded with George Russell, Andy Sheppard, Henry Lowther, Pete Jacobsen, The Westbrook Trio, Grand Union, The Blowpipes, Hermeto Pascoal, Orchestre National de Jazz & the New York Composers Orchestra amongst others.
Mick Hutton - double bass
Mick's playing is distinguished by superb intonation, great time and a highly original approach. He has toured with Lee Konitz, Joe Henderson, and just about every major British modern jazz player.
Paul Clarvis – drums
Another musician whose influence is beginning to be heard amongst younger players, Paul is one of the UK's busiest musicians, equally at home in the classical and world music fields as in jazz. Amazingly, he still finds time to co-direct the record label
"Noble is one of the younger UK pianists most likely to turn surprising corners. A highly inventive and thoughtful musician, Noble graces any band he joins, while his own music combines characterful composing with fresh, risk-embracing improvisation.... Some wonderful, hooting, almost country-blues music balances the busyness, and Sulzmann - superb on tenor sax throughout - has rarely played better". John Fordham, The Guardian 3* Feb 2003
"Collaboration of reeds players Stan Sulzmann and Chris Biscoe, pianist Liam Noble, bassist Mick Hutton and drummer Paul Clarvis proves that the spirit of free improvisation is not dead, but has been merely sleeping. Noble's stunning charts sit alongside an uplifting version of Lionel Bart's "Who Will Buy?". Inspirational". Chrissie Murray, Ronnie Scott's Magazine
“Pianist Liam Noble has already impressed through his work with such as Bobby Wellins, Christine Tobin and Paul Clarvis and In the Meantime wholeheartedly confirms that he’s a player to keep an eye on. Surrounded by a bunch of strong if underrated personalities that include Clarvis as well as Stan Sulzmann and Chris Biscoe, Noble has produced one of the best independent releases that I’ve heard of late. An elegant player with an incisive if at times understated style, Noble excels as a writer and arranger on this set. The themes and orchestrations – capitalising wholeheartedly on the fine playing of the ensemble of which Sulzmann and Biscoe stand out – are affecting and occasionally rapturous affairs that strike an all too rare balance between strong, strident forward drive and graceful poise. Harmonic finesse and wily counterpoint are the order of the day but perhaps what impresses the most is the idiomatic range of the material that echoes of anything from Keith Jarrett and early 70’s ECM to Wayne Shorter and very occasionally Thelonious Monk. Yet what we end up with is nevertheless a very British sounding album – something that would sit very well in the Babel catalogue. And the severely reharmonised version of Lionel Bart’s ‘Who Will Buy?’ is a delight, confirming Noble’s ability to take a left turn all the while keeping on the straight and narrow. All told In the Meantime is an articulate, accomplished affair from a musician who is surely more than ready to step out of the shadows.” Kevin Le Gendre , Jazzwise April 2003 4 *
"This is as close as any British composer has come to the vivid unorthodoxy of New York's downtown scene. Heard out of context, you'd think this was a recent outing by someone like Wayne Horvitz. The only giveaway is that Hutton and Clavis refuse to anchor the music in any rythmic certainty as an American section certainly would and take it off to the very edges.
Noble is capable of quirkiness in one measure and jaw-dropping beauty in the very next. He belongs to a long line of English "eccentrics", which could include anyone from Lord Berners to Lol Coxhill, who are not so much improvisers in the conventional sense as instant composers, musicians who fire off ideas according to no obvious structural philosophy but with absolute self-consistency.
It's hard to exaggerate just how good this album is. Tracks like "The Bathroom Mirror" stopped me short in precisely that place, blade dangerously poised, while Noble and the group executed an astonishing harmonic walkabout. "Close Your Eyes" finds them in more conventional jazz mode, as is perhaps appropriate at the end of the record, a blues-tinged structure that is ineffably beautiful and will (if Liam isn't very disciplined) end up on someone's soundtrack one of these days. It doesn't need images, and none of the tracks on In The Meantime needs a programme or an explanation. Check out the superb "Across The Park" and "Waltz" as contrasting examples of what this group can do.
Stan Sulzmann is, as ever, inspirational, but it's Chris Biscoe who catches the ear this time round, not least for his unexpected double on alto clarinet, a warm-toned instrument with an unexpected range and resonance. Joe Lovano is the only other player I've heard recently who gives it the same emotional colouration. This is a vintage British jazz record and the most compelling sign yet that Liam Noble is going to be a composer to watch and listen to very carefully indeed".
BRIAN MORTON (The Jazz Review, April 2003)
“Excellent set by a UK pianist who has not only made a mark as a quirky improvioser with Monkish leanings and as a distinctive composer, but who has also enhanced the work of many other local players. Shades of the Django Bates style of thematic writing can be detected here and there in some engagingly jumpy, unjazzlike melodies, and the dense, long-lined, dynamically restrained manner of Greg Osby’s music is also touched on. But a shining light of the whole attractive enterprise is the presence of Stan Sulzmann, who seems to sound more personal and hauntingly moving than ever. Lionel Bart’s ‘Who Will Buy?’, sounding like a Wayne Shorter track, is an unexpected interloper in the repertoire.” John Fordham JazzUK
Both virtues are on display here as Noble leads a quintet through a programme of utterly distinctive music. It's edge of the seat stuff, full of unexpected twists and turns, and yet everything has a sense of rightness and logic that makes it immensely satisfying to listen to.
The star of the session is that wonderful saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, whose work on Waltz and the bluesy Hello Boys is wonderful. Altoist and clarinettist Chris Biscoe isn't far behind on Who Will Buy and The Bathroom Mirror, and the exchanges between the two saxophonists are wonderful.
Noble himself is on top form throughout, and there is good support from bassist Mick Hutton and drummer Paul Clarvis. Liam Noble is quietly establishing himself as a major voice". Andrew Vine Yorkshire Post 4*
“Birmingham Conservatoire jazz piano tutor Liam Noble was recently heard to great effect on saxophonist Julian Siegel’s five-star album Close Up. In the leader’s chair he takes a more adventurous path both as composer and in choice of band members, going for the highly-individualistic sounds of saxophonists Stan Sulzmann and Chris Biscoe, bassist Mick Hutton and drummer Paul Clarvis.
His writing sounds are strongly influenced by the modern black American school started by pianists like Andrew Hill and Muhal Richard Abrams and continued by the M-basers Steve Coleman and greg Osby.
Noble’s style is more in the crispy category than in the crunchy area occupied by Matthew Shipp and Jason Moran, but like them he might feel the hand of Thelonious Monk upon his shoulder. But he can wear his heart on his sleeve too.
He does some very clever things with Lionel Bart’s Who Will Buy, setting up a trance-like piano figure for the saxophones to play across, with complementary dry and dusty tones from Sulzmann’s saxophone and Biscoe’s alto clarinet.
The band often straddles the line between form and freedom, but they accomplish it all with aplomb. And Old Masters is just lovely.
Good strong stuff.” Peter Bacon, The Birmingham Post
Liam Noble studied music at Oxford University, and after his postgraduate course at the Guildhall, he became the pianist for Stan Sulzmann. Noble was recommended by John Taylor, who had played with Sulzmann, who had played with Kenny Wheeler, who had played with Taylor. Noble then went on to join forces with Wheeler as well as with Lol Coxhill and John Stevens. All of this should stand in testimony to his skills as a piano player. That quality is underlined on this disc, which also strongly profiles his ability as a composer.
As a composer, Noble rows up different streams. He does this articulately and with finesse. Helping him translate the music into an avid listening experience is his band; they understand and they explore, bringing in several moments of delight and surprise. It comes in the tangent, the slight veer away from the line, the repeated motif or a shift in timbre, and it all leads up to anticipation for more.
There are no diminishing returns here (except for that song title) which quite simply means that this is an absorbing album.
Jerry D'Souza AllAboutJazz.com