The lovechild of two of London’s up-and-coming powerhouse saxophonists, AuB are a twin tenor ensemble ready to make cataclysmic waves in the sound of UK jazz, as demonstrated tonight at The Vortex. Led by Tom Barford and Alex Hitchcock on tenor saxophones and joined by Fergus Ireland (bass) and James Maddren (drums), it is fair to say that this quartet is firing on all four cylinders.
Sharing compositional duties, Hitchcock and Barford consistently paint a harmonically expansive landscape, establishing progressions through the ebb and flow of their exploratory phrases and, with the additional voice of Ireland’s rich bass tones, the presence of a chordal instrument is not missed. The two tenors lull the audience into a false sense of security with seamlessly blended unison passages, before bursting into sections of collective improvisation which showcase their distinctive styles. Original composition ‘Doggerland’ unleashes Barford’s unyielding tone, filling the room as he thematically darts between bop and abstract language, juxtaposed by Hitchcock’s more earthy palette that dips and dives through explosive double-time runs against the agitation of Maddren’s beat. A vital element to AuB, Maddren’s drumming is a masterclass of inexhaustible tension and release. Their final number, Hitchcock’s lightning tempo ‘Blues for JC’, was an exhibit of united volatility from the quartet, with Maddren’s ride cymbal as the linchpin.
Keep your eye on AuB in the coming months: this performance comes ahead of the quartet’s much-anticipated debut album release this May, on Edition Records, and they have an opening spot for trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire at the Jazz Café the same month. If this performance is anything to go by, there’s a lot to look forward to.