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Quentin Angus shares uplift, aided by Michael Mayo and Nate Smith, on "Broken Bones"

Desmond White

Affirmation isn’t as abundant a commodity as it should be in contemporary music. So it’s worth taking note of a song like “Broken Bones,” which opens The State of Things, a forthcoming album by guitarist and composer Quentin Angus.

WBGO is proud to premiere a video for the song, which finds Angus in the studio with an impressive crew, featuring Michael Mayo on vocals and Nate Smith on drums. On bass is Desmond White, who like Angus originally hails from Australia; rounding out the group is Can Olgun, an accomplished German pianist based in New York.

"Broken Bones" by Quentin Angus, Feat: Michael Mayo, Nate Smith, Can Olgun and Des White

The song traces an oblong rhythmic cycle during the verse, which Mayo begins with this assertion: “Every soul with broken bones has a chance to find / Its freedom from storm clouds and pratfalls / And all the hazards of the heart that tie it down.” During the chorus, which hails “The triumph of the heart,” the groove shifts to common time, with Mayo assuming radiant form.

Elsewhere on The State of Things, this cosmopolitan New York band puts its agile stamp on standards with deep cultural resonance: “What a Wonderful World,” a calling card for Louis Armstrong; “Pure Imagination,” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” from The Wizard of Oz. These songs come interspersed with smartly designed Angus originals. The title track incorporates a sample overlay of news reports – about mass shootings, climate change, racial tension, coronavirus — before Mayo enters with a call to reflection, over a skittering 7/8 groove.

Desmond White

Angus may not be a household name, but he’s a force on the scene in New York, where he arrived from Eden Valley in South Australia a dozen years ago to pursue his masters at Purchase College. He’s now an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Jazz & Popular Music at Borough of Manhattan Community College, where he teaches ensemble workshops as well as classes focused on the guitar.

He is a keen student of the instrument, in every sense of the word. (His 2014 dissertation for the Elder Conservatorium of Music at the University of Adelaide, “Phrasing and polyrhythm in contemporary jazz guitar: a portfolio of recorded performances and exegesis,” applies a rigorous analysis to the styles of John Abercrombie and Gilad Hekselman.) The crisp clarity of his playing on The State of Things, along with the cohesion of the group he has assembled, speaks volumes.

The State of Things will be released by Outside In Music on March 18; preorder here.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.