Keving Figes has been a regular touring and recording artist for years now, both leading his own quartets, trios and bossa nova groups, and also contributing strong work to other players efforts. A well-known and highly regarded name in his native Bristol, his long-time coming debut ‘Circular Motion’ brilliantly showcases welcome evidence of a very long and enduring musical journey.
Keen to possess substance but still be accessable, ‘Circular Motion’ highlights the strong yet different backgrounds of his work – from his more free-style work recorded with Keith Tippett to his more funk-flavoured live group playing, and makes sure to show all the little pockets of his versatile musical personality.
‘Listless’ opens, with a strong and hooky saxophone melody so identifiable and memorable it could easily make radio play, and quickly became both Figes’ signature piece and a live favourite. ‘Song For Sometime’ elsewhere offers its bandleader a lovely slight-gospel ballad, and another Figes live staple ‘The Grind’ gives us a suitably swinging funk.
It isn’t just himself he provides for though. Aware of the superb musicians he has with him, plenty of space to shine is given to considerably talented local Bristol star Jim Blomfield on piano who more than gets into the complex rhythms and juicy changes in each piece (‘Sevenup’ is a highlight), and sadly serves to remind us of Blomfield’s own slim discography.
The strong self-written compositions are also given subtle but strong support by bassist Riaan Vosloo and drummer Tim Giles, while the one single cover here is the final track, a take on a piece by Figes’ much admired Wayne Shorter. ‘Lester Left Town’ originally recorded by Shorter whilst with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers was his tribute to the then recently passed master tenor Lester Young., and Figes own take on alto saxophone is no less moving, or inspired.
Much like his playing and writing influences of Shorter and also Dave Holland, the music here has a lightness of touch that gently holds the subtle and complex compositions underneath. The effect overall is a set of lively and widely varied yet cohesive music from a band that repeatedly deliver a stomping live show. A skilled and impassioned debut, it also achieves the valuable trick of making you want more just as it finishes.