Portico Quartet - Knee-deep in the North Sea

Those paying attention should know by now at least two facts about Portico Quartet. (1) They play jazz. (With a name like that no-one was going to mistake them for a rock act.) (2) They were nominated for (but didn't win) 2008's Mercury Music Prize.

It's true those of us (and I include myself in this) who only have the vaguest interest in jazz will have difficulty in distinguishing this South London foursome's noise from much other jazz. Theirs is best described as a clean, uncluttered sound, Jack Wyllie's saxophone, which flits between calmly asking questions to doing the jazz equivalent of rocking out, to the fore. Their secret weapon, and the backbone to their music, is an instrument called a "hang", contributing chiming, clattering tones similar to a steel drum.

Knee-deep In The North Sea makes for pleasant Sunday morning jazz; reasonably abstract, yet accessible enough for newcomers intrigued by their inclusion on the Mercury list.



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