Brian Molley Quartet expands its sound with world travels

As a far-travelling band, the Brian Molley Quartet has garnered its fair share of air miles as well as some interestingly diverse musical influences. Glasgow-based saxophonist Molley, with or without his quartet, has played in the United States, Brazil and Morocco, often collaborating with local musicians, and later this month the quartet renews its long-standing relationship with India, with a tour that kicks off at Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar and Aberdeen’s Blue Lamp before flying off to Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Bangalore.

Brian Molley

This will be the BMQ’s fifth visit to India, while the Glasgow-based saxophonist has visited the subcontinent himself on a few other occasions. “We’ve been very lucky,” he says. “Whenever we’ve gone we get the chance to play for new audiences and the opportunities are brilliant for us. But one of the main reasons we keep going back is that we get the chance to work with Indian musicians.”

In the past they’ve collaborated and recorded with musicians in India’s northerly state of Rajasthan, resulting in an album, Journeys in Hand, under the auspices of Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthan International Folk Festival). Last year the Rajasthanis also came over here to join the BMQ for Fringe appearances and a Scottish tour.

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Molley and company are not the only Scottish outfit to have beat a rewarding path to Jodhpur: the “acid croft” folk band Shooglenifty has also shared Indian and Scottish stages with the Rajasthani players. This time, however, the BMQ is renewing its acquaintanceship with the percussionists of Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal.

“The Rajasthanis tend to be a mixture of vocalists, percussionists and other musicians,” says Molley, “but the guys from Chennai all being percussionists puts a different slant on the music we play with them, with not quite the same harmonic considerations to prepare for.

“There are such varied cultures in India; these just happen to be the two projects we’ve been involved in, but there’s so much to learn there and so much music to hear.”

To what extent do they modify their particular contemporary jazz repertoire to suit Indian audiences? “It depends on the venue,” Molley responds. “If we play a jazz club there we tend to go for it, much more straight-ahead, but one thing we’ve always done as a quartet, and I’ve done as a musician, I guess, is to have quite a bit of variety in what’s going on, so we’ll have some music from Brazil, where we’ve played in the past, and some Scottish folk in there and of course the Indian element too. To me, that’s what jazz is about, rather than just the straight-ahead stuff, although we do that too. That blend of influences holds a key interest for me.”

As well as playing with his quartet, the 42-year-old Molley is in demand as a sideman and session player. Among the influences he cites are

the inevitable saxophone giants such as John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon, and among his ongoing projects is one recreating the great Getz and Charlie Byrd album Jazz Samba, with the quartet enlisting guitarist Ross Milligan. Another is a jazz re-imagining of Disney film themes which he launched at this year’s Edinburgh Jazz Festival. Both projects, he hopes, “should develop arms and legs” for the future.

BMQ’s first two albums, 2013’s Clock and Colour and Movement two years ago, both met with an enthusiastic response, the band creating a strikingly organic sound, with Molley’s tenor sax warm-toned and articulate, and Gibbs’s piano ringing brightly from the mix.

Organic, agrees Molley, is what the quartet is going for. “I always had this concept that it was going to be four of us making music. A band is so much more when it’s the sum of all its parts rather than just one person directing things.” Jim Gilchrist

The Brian Molley Quartet plays the Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, on 22 September and the Blue Lamp, Aberdeen on 3 October, see