It’s that time of year again, when the white heat of contemporary jazz fuses with the peat reek of distilleries at the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival. Amid an international guest list, trumpeter Ryan Quigley will be returning to the island with a new recording.
The title of his latest album, What Doesn’t Kill You (Whirlwind Recordings), probably isn’t an oblique implication that whisky makes you stronger, but it certainly features Quigley on potent form, in the company of saxophonist Paul Booth, pianist Steve Hamilton, bassist (and proprietor of Whirlwind) Michael Janisch and drummer Clarence Penn. The quintet launches the album at London’s Pizza Express on Monday before embarking on a tour that takes in Islay next Saturday and Edinburgh’s Jazz Bar on the 11th.
Recent years have seen Quigley playing with a wide range of outfits, including his own big band and the quartet Brass Jaw, as well as being in demand for orchestral, session and touring duties with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones and Tom Jones. It is eight years, however, since he brought out his last album under his own name, the neatly titled Laphroaig-ian Slip – and, yes, the title was coined, he says, during a visit to the Islay Jazz festival.
He’ll be there with the same quintet that recorded the new album, bar pianist Hamilton, a frequent collaborator with Quigley, who has other commitments. He will be replaced for the tour by American player Geoffrey Keezer.
Between albums, he reckons, his music will have developed: “Hopefully, it will have got a bit richer and well-listened, my craft honed a bit more. I’ve done a lot of stuff since then which I hope will have filtered into what’s coming from me now.”
What Doesn’t Kill You proves an impressive showcase for Quigley’s music and that of his colleagues. The title track alone works up quite a groove over Penn’s vigorous drumming, with chorusing brass and a distinct retro feel contributed by the cool vibe of Hamilton’s Fender Rhodes work.
Quigley agrees that it harks back to Miles Davis’s Seventies bands, but also cites a favourite album of his, The Infinite, released in 2002 by another trumpeter, Dave Douglas, which also, he points out, featured Penn on drums: “It was in the back of my mind that I wanted to use the Fender because I love the sound of that record.”
In contrast is Fire Eyes, a slow drift of a tune that opens with a wash of cymbals and features Quigley double-tracking, sounding a distant fanfare through the brass foreground. One number with all too contemporary resonances is Hymn to their Homeland which, after a solo double bass prelude by Janisch, progresses with a stately poignancy, Quigley blowing with magisterial power and Booth colouring the mix with velvety flute tones. “I guess Hymn to Their Homeland is basically about being displaced and not wanting to be displaced. Obviously the refugee situation comes to mind.” It’s a theme that also resonates personally with Quigley, who came to Glasgow with his family from his native Derry during the 1970s to get away from the Troubles.
Now based largely in London, the trumpeter is anticipating with relish the quintet’s appearance at Islay, where they’ll join a star-studded bill (marking sponsor Lagavulin’s 200th anniversary) that also includes US singer James Tormé, the young Norwegian band Pixel and Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius, as well as such well-known Scottish names as trumpeter Colin Steele’s Mercy Mercy Mercy band, bassist Mario Caribe and saxophonist Martin Kershaw, both with quartets, guitarist Martin Taylor and the Fergus McCreadie Trio.
“It’s a lot of years since I was last there so I’m looking forward to going back,” he says. “I love Islay and obviously it’ll be nice to have some good whisky there as well.”
• The Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival runs from 9-11 September. See www.islayjazzfestival.co.uk