Mark McKnight - guitar & compositions
Seamus Blake - saxophones
Ross Stanley - organ
James Maddren - drums
Recorded at Castle Sound Studios, Scotland
Mix & Mastered by Tyler McDiarmid, NYC
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
released September 26, 2011
ABOUT THE ALBUM
Since the release of his debut Overnight, Mark McKnight has emerged as one of the most significant new voices in European jazz guitar, representing his native Ireland at the 12 Points! Festival as well the UK in the European Jazz Orchestra. Having recorded his debut in NYC with a band comprising some of the city's finest musicians, the intervening two years have seen McKnight focus primarily on the development of his own UK based organ trio.
"I was fortunate to meet the amazing young Hammond organist Ross Stanley in late 2008, shortly after finishing my first record," explains McKnight. "I have always felt at home with the sound of the Hammond and having just finished the acoustic quintet music of Overnight, I was looking for something new to explore."
And indeed it's the searching but always melodically-defined writing, just as much as the virtuosic playing displayed by all four musicians, which sets Do or Die apart. McKnight states, "I've been very lucky to find the perfect combination of musicians for this project in terms of their collective understanding of the musical aesthetic I'm looking for. In addition to Ross, I'm featuring another of the UK's foremost young talents, drummer James Maddren. James' rhythmic and textural invention in combination with Ross' incredible ear and harmonic ingenuity create a truly inspiring and unpredictable rhythm section for any soloist or listener."
The quartet is completed by one of the world's most celebrated saxophonists in tenor icon Seamus Blake. "Seamus has always been one of my favorite saxophonists and someone whose music I've been checking out for years," McKnight adds. "As a result he fits perfectly with the vibe of the group and of course brings his own unique and personal voice to what I've written."
From start to finish, this is an album that not only reinforces the ever developing voice of McKnight as both an improvisor and composer, but also confidently announces the arrival of a significant new interpretation of the Hammond organ group.
"There's a strong sense of narrative in [McKnight's] soloing which blurs the line between improvisation and composition, and he mercifully resists the temptation to show off his technique, though it is prodigious."
The Sunday Business Post
"[Do or Die] reveals the depth of songwriting that McKnight has achieved....truly inspirational."
"Mark McKnight is a phenomenal guitarist whose fluency and dexterity have created a stir in recent years. On [Do or Die], there is much to admire."
"Outstanding new album...[McKnight] is a phenomenal young Belfast guitarist."
The Irish News
"If you’re going to title your disc Do Or Die, your music had better have some compelling urgency going for it. Happily, the sophomore disc from the young, Belfast-raised, Berklee College of Music-educated guitarist Mark McKnight lives up to the promise of its name."
The Ottawa Citizen
"A superb recording...what appeals, quite apart from the high level of musicianship are the clarity, hunger and sense of enquiry in McKnight's, and indeed the whole group's playing...a fresh and invigorating approach to the [organ trio] format."
"Gorgeous explorations of the theme by McKnight and saxophonist Seamus Blake, who trade with fluidness, intensity and feeling. Both soloists' voices are richly drawn: McKnight, in particular, creating a canopy of thought-provoking and emotive mood."
All About Jazz
"'Do or Die' is an album that confirms McKnight's status as a rising star with its blend of intriguing compositions and top quality playing all round."
"A class act."
"A fine album, which is hopefully the first of many from this line-up."
"McKnight, Ross Stanley (organ ), James Maddren (drums) and Seamus Blake stretched out on McKnight’s compositions to dramatic effect, stretching the fabric of the tunes, changing the order of the solos and generally blowing the hell out of the material."
"Superbly played, unexpectedly original, and definitely grows on you."
"McKnight has formidable technique, a fluent flow of ideas and an instinctive appreciation of contrast."
The Irish Times
"A growing presence on the international jazz scene....[McKnight's] guitar style combines a singing sound with searching, bluesy energy and a quick witted sense of form...[Do or Die] showcases a band that takes the classic hammond quartet into its own zone...McKnight and Blake tear up the guitarist's variously elegant and urgent melodies."
"McKnight's crisp, inventive guitar work assiduously avoiding cliches."
"Musicianship of the highest order....McKnight's fluency is something to behold...a contender for gig of the year."
[Review of Live Performance] Bebop Spoken Here