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(Published: May 25, 2013)

Australian guitarist Quentin Angus will be a couple of months shy of his 26th birthday when he releases Perception (Aurora Sounds AS-QA001), his second self-produced recording as a leader. Yet the New York-based instrumentalist, composer and bandleader has already garnered an impressive series of awards and accolades from critics and fellow jazz guitartists alike. The new album vividly showcases Angus's distinctive sound and formidable chops on a diverse set of tunes that includes six original compositions and a highly inventive version of the Miles Davis classic "Nardis." It expands the compositional and improvisational horizons the guitarist initially explored on Retrieval Structure, his self-released recording debut as a leader from 2012. A featured album on the nationally syndicated Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Jazz Radio channel, Angus's first recording was praised by John Abercrombie for its "stellar playing" and by Gilad Hekselman as a "personal and unique collection of very adventurous, yet heartfelt, compositions." These include two that earned Angus ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Awards in 2012 and 2013 which complement the Downbeat Student Music Awards for jazz compositions he received in 2011 and 2012.

Angus's music straddles both jazz and rock, the idioms that guided his development as an instrumentalist and writer whose nuances he absorbed and adapted during his formative years as a player. One can hear both styles in his approach to soloing as he effortlessly switches between crafting sinuous lines with the fluidity of jazz masters like Wes Montgomery or Pat Martino and executing searing staccato licks like rock icons Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, all of whom the guitarist cites as major influences. "Before I started playing jazz, my major inspirations were instrumental rock artists like Vai and Satriani and I played a lot of their music and learned some of their solos when I was in my early to mid-teens," Angus explains. "At that time all I really cared about was playing as fast as possible and doing really flashy things so the main thing that motivated me was what they were doing technically. Later I discovered Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel who served as my bridge between rock and jazz. He can shred single note lines but also writes really beautiful melodies and incorporates finger picking.

Montgomery was the first jazz guitarist to inspire Angus. "My teacher at the time I started studying jazz initially introduced me to artists like Pat Metheny and John Scofield but when they played fast it sounded a bit weird and random to me and I didn't understand it," he recalls. "On the other hand, Montgomery's phrasing - his use of octaves and chords in his solos and bluesy, riff-based improvisations - was easier for me to grasp. A lot of the jazz I first started playing was based on standards so he was the perfect introduction." After Montgomery, Angus discovered Martino whom he found to be a logical next step on his path to creating less traditional, more modern sounding jazz improvisations and compositions. "At the end of college in Australia you have to do a mini-thesis to prepare for post-graduate work and I chose Martino as the subject of mine. He uses 8th and 16th notes to play these long lines that remind me of Coltrane's ‘sheets of sound' and I spent a year transcribing and analyzing his recordings trying to figure out how he did that." After full immersion in the music of Montgomery and Martino, Angus better understood what Metheny, Scofield and eventually John Abercrombie were doing. Other guitarists he considers favorites include Kurt Rosenwinkel and Gilad Hekselman and he cites the playing and composing of bassist Avishai Cohen as a particular influence.

Angus chose Perception as the title for this CD for two reasons. "I'm very interested in the way we humans perceive our world since our auditory, visual and olfactory senses are really quite limited," he explains. "I looked at different scientific discoveries about various imperfections in human physiology like blind spots, depth perception and optical illusions and applied these concepts to a musical setting by using displacements, metric modulations and polyrhythm not only as a basis for composition but also during improvisations." He also applied the concept of perception in a more fundamental way, namely how his music could be expressed and realized which is manifested in the album's instrumentation. "I wanted to explore as many different colors and sounds as possible, including non-standard combinations of instruments and ended up using 15 different musicians not only playing guitar, saxophone, piano, bass, drums and percussion but also a vocalist and a string quintet. I gave a lot of thought to the way I included improvisations on the album, because I feel composition is an area too often over-looked by jazz artists. To me it represents at least 50% - if not more - of any artistic statement I make so most of my compositions only include one soloist or a single solo section."

Based in New York City since the Fall of 2010, guitarist, composer and bandleader Quentin Angus was born on August 17, 1987 in Mount Plesant, South Australia. He has toured internationally as a leader performing in Belgium, Holland, Romania, Turkey, Japan, the USA, Australia and New Zealand and has appeared at the Jazz Hoeilaart Festival (2011), Bucharest International Jazz Festival (2012), EUROPAfest (2012), Adelaide International Guitar Festival (2009), Mt Barker Jazz Festival (2010) and Adelaide FRINGE (2008-10) among other festivals as well as at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Cornelia Street Cafe, Smoke and Smalls in New York and the Nardis Jazz Club in Istanbul among other venues. Angus has also performed and/or recorded with John Abercrombie, Bob Mintzer, Kevin Hays, Gilad Hekselman, Will Vinson, Colin Stranahan, Linda Oh, Jo Lawry, Shai Maestro and Wolfgang Muthspiel, among others. He released his self-produced recording debut Retrieval Structure in July 2012.

Angus was one of 20 musicians from around the world selected to participate in The Kennedy Center's prestigious Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Residency (an international jazz performance and composition project discovering and presenting the next generation of visionary jazz artists) under the direction of Jason Moran in 2013 and Nathan Davis in 2011. He received two consecutive ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Awards for the songs "The Heights" (2013) and "Coltrane Matrix" (2012) that are featured on Retrieval Structure and Downbeat Student Music Awards in the categories Jazz Soloist (2012) and Jazz Composition (2012 & 2011). In 2012 Angus won the inaugural Excellence in Jazz Award from the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) for "building an international reputation with his brilliant compositional work that is both personal and adventurous." In 2013 he was named South Australian Young Achiever of the Year by the Australian national television network Channel 9.

Angus has studied with Mike Moreno, Curtis Fuller, Scott Colley, Hal Galper, Pat Martino, Jonathan Kreisberg and Adam Rodgers among others and received a Masters Degree summa cum laude from the Purchase College Conservatory of Music in May 2012. He graduated with first class honors from the University of Adelaide (Australia) in 2009 where he was named the Most Outstanding Postgraduate Music Student (2009) and Most Outstanding Jazz Guitar Undergraduate (2006) and also received the Keith Michell Performance Award from the Helpmann Academy in Adelaide (2010).

Angus is the author of four transcription books of improvisations from Israeli jazz guitarist Gilad Hekselman's albums Split-Life, Words Unspoken, Hearts Wide Open and This Just In and has been published by MelBay Publications, JazzHeaven and the music journal NZMiC. He has presented research papers on his transcriptions of Hekselman's and Abercrombie's music at conferences in New Zealand and Australia.


"Particular, Peculiar" - The album's opening track pays homage to my musical background and its title reflects the fact that there's quite an eclectic mix of genres from a very diverse set of influences here. The composition's groove is based on 'drum ‘n' bass' or 'break beat', music that consumed many of my teenage years. The harmony is drawn from various pop music influences and there's both a traditional jazz solo section for guitar (when the work metrically modulates to a medium swing feel), and more contemporary jazz influences via various displacements and time signatures.

"Perception" - I composed the title track on the piano as I occasionally explore writing on other instruments, which I find can be extremely rewarding since I can literally close my eyes and let my ear guide me. Because I'm not proficient enough on the piano to analyze the music as it goes by I usually have no idea what I'm playing until I write it down.

"Nardis" - I always consider including a standard on an album but I take composition so seriously that featuring one is a really strong decision. "Nardis" has always been one of my favorite standards to perform. I learned it in 2008 and since then have come up with more than 20 arrangements and re-harmonizations. The version here was co-arranged with pianist Matthew Sheens. The core of the arrangement is based around a driving, odd time signature heavy rock riff that becomes the 'hook' for the arrangement. While this is a new way of dealing with the tune, it's also suggestive of some of Miles Davis's later works where he experimented with different sounds and distorted electric guitar.

"Red And Yellow" - This song was inspired by autumn in New York. The seasons are not as pronounced back home in Australia and I find the extreme visual differences in the four seasons here very inspiring. The concept behind this composition was to try and replicate Fall starting with the first hints of color at its onset, the beautiful sights and atmospheres as the season progresses and the final leaf hitting the ground before Winter sets in, which is metaphorically signaled by a decrescendo, pause and final pianissimo hit.

"Chernobyl" - This beautiful song, inspired by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, is by pianist Matthew Sheens who regularly plays in my quintet. We performed the piece in 2012 with the Romanian Chamber String Quintet at the EUROPAfest in Bucharest. This was my first experience playing with strings and sparked my interest in further exploring this sound.

"Restoration" - This piece was composed after a lengthy tour of Australia in 2012. I was back home for around two months after completing a one-month European tour and had not composed or performed with my regular band in NYC for many months. This was the first composition I wrote at the time and it heralds the reactivation of my quintet and the band's continued progression and evolution.

"Den Haag" - I wrote this when I was stuck for two weeks in Den Haag, the Netherlands, organizing replacements for all my travel documents (i.e. passport, US VISA, etc.) that were in my computer bag that was stolen on a train from Brussels while on a tour with my band. I was completely by myself, had nothing to do, no computer, no commitments and had lots of time to contemplate many different things. I spent a lot of this time composing and this is one of the works completed during this period. It's a melodic elixir for how I was feeling after this experience.

"Bounce" - Music expresses all the different facets of human emotions, including some we are unable to be put into words. I often close out performances by the Quentin Angus Quintet with this song that I intentionally wrote as a 'party' tune with a catchy hook, funky groove and simple melodic structures.

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