Half a World Away

The picture here looks like a scene from a fantasy world but, in fact, it’s a photograph taken one misty morning in the New Forest in the south of England. It’s a far cry from the concrete jungles of our inner cities but it’s really only half a world away. And, like the white horse ambling through the forest tracks, there’s a band called ARQ that have been hiding in plain sight of Crotchety Man’s quality jazz detectors for six or seven years now. They came to my attention a few days ago when I received an email from Derby Live announcing that ARQ will be playing in the market place on 21st August. And that’s not far from Crotchety Mansions at all.

ARQ is unusual in several ways. They are led by a woman – the initials stand for “Alison Rayner Quintet” – and a majority of the band members are women. The leader plays the double bass, an instrument more often associated with the back line and rarely in the glare of the spotlights. They play an unremarkable style of jazz but with an understated inventiveness that has impressed aficionados of the genre across the UK and Europe. ARQ is noted in the Crotchety Archives as one of those outfits that flies under most listeners’ radar and deserves much greater recognition.

Here’s a live version of a track from their 2014 album, August:

ARQ is mostly a live band but they have recorded three albums: August (2014), A Magic Life (2016) and Short Stories (2019). All of them are available from the usual sources but, unfortunately, they haven’t been entered into the Discogs database. I’d have added them myself but Discog’s first requirement for submissions is that you have the physical record in your possession. That seems unnecessarily bureaucratic to me but those are the rules and I don’t qualify. All the album information is on the ARQ website, though.

There’s little to choose between the albums. I believe the same personnel feature on all three releases and there’s no obvious change of style over the years. If you like one you’ll like them all. Crotchety Man recommends this band unreservedly.

Alison Rayner

ARQ has a number of live dates scheduled across the UK for the rest of this year and well into 2022. The one that tickled the fancy of the Crotchety Clan is listed as “Orpington Naturist Jazz Festival”.

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