In 2007, British cellist Ben Davis and the quintet Basquiat Strings introduced their fusions of classical chamber techniques and jazz-, folk- and rock-inspired originals, unobtrusively steered by Polar Bear drummer Seb Rochford – a debut that brought the group a Mercury prize nomination that year. Now comes this leaner but equally engaging follow-up, with the drums (Rochford and Dave Smith both participate) even more tightly integrated, and this time just one cover (Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and Ornette Coleman were all invoked in 2007): a mournfully seesawing, country-bluesy cello account of It Ain't Necessarily So. The music is often exhilarating, seductive in its episodes of calm, and buzzes with startling structural inventions. Busy tracks such as Calum Campbell mix a clamorous collective sound with treacherously tricksy rhythms; History of Her is a patiently unfolded rhythm-cycle intensified by Rochford's drums that swells to a whirling contrapuntal finale; Scam begins as a series of collective advances and retreats but becomes a rocking thrash; and the wraith-like Bebella turns into a melancholy bossa nova. It's been brewing a long time, but the second Basquiat chapter has been worth the wait.
John Fordham is the Guardian's main jazz critic. He has written several books on the subject, reported on it for publications including Time Out, Sounds, Wire and Word, and contributed to documentaries for radio and TV. He is a former editor of Time Out, City Limits and Jazz UK, and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3's Jazz on 3