Sandy Brown Jazz

Album Reviews 2018

[The links on this page were correct when the item was included - please contact us if you find that any of them are no longer working]

 

Click here for Reviews published prior to 2018 and for the full Reviews Index

 

By artist in alphabetical order:

 

A



B

Alan Barnes and David Newton - Ask Me Now

Brian Blade And The Fellowship Band - Body And Shadow


C

 

 

D

Josephine Davies - Satori

 

 

E

 

 


F

Favourite Animals - Favourite Animals

Fraser And The Alibis - Fraser & The Alibis

 

 

G

 

 

H

Peter Horsfall - Nighthawks

 

 

I

 

J

 

K

 

L

 

M


N

Alan Barnes and David Newton - Ask Me Now

 

O

Larry Ochs Sax And Drumming Core - Wild Red Yellow


P


Q

 

R

Freddy Randall And His Band - My Tiny Band Is Chosen (The Parlophone Years 1952 - 1957)


S

T

U

V

W

X

Y

Z

 

 

 

Brian Blade And The Fellowship Band - Body And Shadow

Album Released: 17th November 2017 - Label: Decca (UMO) - Reviewed: January 2018

Brian Blade Body And Shadow

Brian Blade (drums); Myron Walden (alto saxophone, bass clarinet); Melvin Butler (tenor saxophone); Dave Devine (guitar); Jon Cowherd (piano, keyboards); Chris Thomas (bass). 

American drummer Brian Blade has conquered many jazz fans with his sophisticated technique, open nature, and instinctual rhythm. His unique touch, never too loud and never too soft, has played a crucial role in projects of likes such as Kenny Garrett, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner, David Binney, and Wayne Shorter. He also built an amazing reputation as a leader of the Fellowship Band, a 20-year endeavour that normally comprises two saxophones, one or two guitars, piano/keyboards, and bass.

Body and Shadow is Blade’s fifth album with this band, whose regular members include saxists Myron Walden and Melvin Butler, pianist/keyboardist Jon Cowherd, and bassist Chris Thomas. The novelty here is guitarist Dave Devine, a sure-footed Denver-based rock guru, who makes his debut in the group after Daniel Lanois, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Marvin Sewell and Jeff Parker have occupied the position in the past.

Click here to listen to Duality from the album.

Embracing identical methodologies as in the previous albums, yet cutting a bit in the improvisations in detriment of a more crafted textural work, the band opens with “Within Everything”, a melodious, unfussy piece that carries the lightness of a pop song entwined with the warm melancholy of Americana. I’m quite sure that both Joni Mitchell and Oasis would approve its atmosphere.

The title track was divided into three parts according to the parts of the day. “Body and Shadow (Night)” upholds a flowing chamber jazz quality, enhanced by bass clarinet melodies (expertly handled by Walden), low-toned key vibes, and bowed bass. The guitar, whether translucent or distorted, fingerpicked or strummed, fits perfectly within the uncongested musical scenario. Conversely, the ‘Morning’ part increases the electrified sounds, getting a tangy indie rock bite, while the ‘Noon’ part is a stagnant electro-acoustic episode with emphasis on Devine’s guitar.

Obeying a 7/4 time signature, “Traveling Mercies” is arranged with compassionate melodies and harmonies that bring some sadness attached. It rekindles the flame during the chorus, in a successful combination of genteel jazz and untroubled folk-rock, as if Joshua Redman has fused with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The resplendent Christian hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” is subjected to two opposite treatments. The first is ‘sung’ exclusively by Cowherd's harmonium, and the second devotionally orchestrated according to Blade’s categorical arrangement.

The syncopated rhythms that initiate “Duality” are also velvety. They are an integral part of a magical soundscape, which, even shifting along the way, maintains both the consistency and stability. The improvisations are further extended here, beginning with Cowherd, who pulls out interesting melodic lines over exuberant chord changes. Giving the best sequence to a short bridge, packed with horn unisons and counterpoint, it’s Walden who, taking advantage of the recently appeared balladic tones, makes his alto saxophone cry and beseech intensely within an outstanding, repeatedly motivic post-bop language. Holding an absolute control of tempo, “Broken Leg Days” closes the session, flowing elegantly while Blade's drumming brings together simple rudiments and dynamic rhythmic accentuations.

Click here to listen to Broken Leg Days.

Brian Blade, as stylish and generous as ever, continues to persuade, and Body and Shadow is another great personal achievement that also serves to commemorate two decades of a tight musical bond.

My Favourite Tracks: Traveling Mercies, Duality and Broken Leg Days.

Click here for details.

Filipe Freitas JazzTrail

Back to Top : What's New

 

 

 

Larry Ochs Sax And Drumming Core - Wild Red Yellow

Album Released: 7th July 2017 - Label: Rogue Art - Reviewed: January 2018

Larry Ochs Wild Red Yellow

Larry Ochs (tenor & sopranino saxophones); Natsuki Tamura (trumpet); Satoko Fujii (piano, synthesizer); Scott Amendola (drums, percussion, electronics); Matthias Bossi (thunder drums; Chinese gongs, shaky flotsam, percussion); William Winant (timpani, roto-toms, percussion).

The Drum is the most basic and yet at the same time, one of the most sophisticated of instruments. What do you do with it?  You hit it!  Sound.  Hit it! Tap it. Stroke it.  One way or an other it carries the rhythm of the heartbeat.  It holds loops; on beat, off beat, rolls, fills, a single shot.  There are flicks and brushes on skin, heavy hands to touch-light.  The beat can be eternal, the beat can be a moment struck in emphasis.  Duke Ellington called one of his short epicsThe Drum Is A Woman (click here).   It became a controversial title because, for sure The Duke was using the phrase to carry the humanity of rhythm, but women (and men, adult and children) should not be beaten to obtain their sound.  I would suggest, the drum is an instrument that carries what we ourselves cannot hold, and therein lies its importance and fascination. 

When Larry Ochs originally formed his Sax And Drumming Core, the band was a trio including current kit drummer, Scott Amendola.  The focus was on the trade off between the leader’s horns and Mr Amendola’s percussion. Scott Amendola still has a central role within the Core but for Ochs the drum became so compulsive that he needed more beats than one person could produce - enter Matthias Bossi and William Winant on gongs, timpani, plus a massive collection of additional percussion.  Running in parallel with all this is the fact that Larry Ochs is also one of the original members of the Rova Saxophone Quartet, formed in 1977, who could be said to have their roots in John Coltrane’s later works like Ascension and Meditations. In other words, the period when Coltrane was piling on beats through the use of double drummers and percussionists.  Rashid Ali, his regular drummer, was being asked to multiply time and rhythm.  The music could not stop still; it was eventually played to the backdrop of a thickening of beats.  Of course the ‘twist’ is that Rova Saxophone Quartet, the band that ‘made’ Larry Ochs name, actually contains no percussion at all.

The essential premise of Wild Red Yellow is to connect drumming into the core of things.  If necessary, to run so many beats in different times and combinations that it becomes possible to trade off the ‘frontline’ of Larry Ochs’ tenor and sopranino saxophones / Natsuki Tamura’s trumpet / Satoko Fujii’s keyboards into multiple directions.  At any split second in the process, the direction of travel can be shredded into a number of routes at exactly the same time. 

The album only has three tracks, Omenicity, A Sorcerer’s Fate and Wild Red Yellow. Of the three, Sorcerer’s is the shortest at just over nine minutes, bookended by the big beast Omenicity and the title track, both weighing in at over twenty minutes each.  Already this description doesn’t need a conjurer to work out that the content of this Wild Red Yellow session is not for the faint hearted.  It demands acute concentration on the part of the musicians and, if you’re going to commit to the course of events, a lot from the listener too.  Can I recommend it to you?  You bet you I can.  Wild Red Yellow is like going on an intense fitness course at the gym. Damn hard work, not to be taken lightly, but once completed the result is a feeling of exhilaration.  It’s a whole body experience – what comes through your ears is ingested and then poured through your inner system of nerve endings, muscle and mind.  Jeepers! Drums are the thunder of the soul.  Or at least, something like that.

Sandy Brown Jazz featured Fujii and Tamura in my November review of Satoko Fujii’s celebratory album Aspiration along with trumpet icon, Wadada Leo Smith.  Here on the Ochs album Fujii plants both her synth and piano into the mix of Omenicity early. She spins the frontline for about thirty seconds before either Larry Ochs or Natsuki Tamura can bring their horns to the mouth.  The three percussionists are already spreading a blanket of sound and fury.  Even listening blind to vision it’s obvious there are at least three languages in action.  As for Satoko Fujii, rather like the omnipresent ‘ghost in the machine’, she unleashes her own withering whine of keyboards across the soundscape as if the ears have entered Hades-Under-Heaven.  Rarely does Omenicity ease the pace, just when it seems they may be applying the breaks, the whole ‘Core’ move into a new phase.  About fifteen minutes in there is a massive sheet metal sound which brings down an arpeggio of piano.  For a short while this internal shudder ushers in a massive dance between the innards of a grand piano and the drummers.  It could be fertility; it could be death; it could be some kind of ceremonial descent into crisis.  I don’t know what it is.  The Sax And Drumming Core have pulled down the lights and entered into a storm of their own making.  Larry Ochs dedicates this huge work to June Taymor (who directed The Lion King). Omenicity would scare Broadway Theatre.  A friend of mine who knows these things, tells me June Taymor is a brave producer.  Good.  Omenicity is bravery personified.

Back in 2009 at the Sigüenza Jazz Festival in Spain a member of the audience called the police to investigate the fact that the Larry Ochs Sax And Drumming Core were not playing jazz.  Once the law enforcement arrived, they too were mystified as to whether what was coming off the stage constituted the j-word.  Sandy Brown Jazz readers will be pleased to know that the final judgement was that Larry Ochs was found to be innocent of the crime of not playing jazz.  So, it’s a matter of factual accuracy that A Sorcerer’s Fate, the ‘short’ nine minute track, has official clearance to be reviewed on a ‘jazz’ website.  For sure I find it a golden nugget. 

In my view, Mr Ochs could present Sorcerer’s Fate to the Spanish authorities as a prima facia fact that he, and indeed the whole band, are jazz musicians.  Sorcerer’s starts with a tight pulse coming off the kit drum (I think it’s Amendola), with Bossi and Winant (or maybe some other combination) whipping and whooping additional percussion on the ‘on’.  Mr Ochs eases in his tenor horn, Fujii and Tamura sound like they’ve just turned up at Ronnie Scott’s and got away with it, and then Fate deals to the damned; it is obvious, the Sax And Drumming Core playing ‘jazz’ in disguise.  Nonetheless the track maintains something close to the evidence required.  I’d swear on its authenticity (sic).

The title track, Wild Red Yellow is another country.  Essential listening.  It is twenty minutes long.  It takes its time.  What begins as a platform so spare of clutter, utterly divorced of the big gesture yet full to the brim with creative detail, ends like it has traversed a mountain range.  This is dissection of sound. The bloom of a bell ringing. The hint of synth-electricity curling on trumpet breath.  Even when Ochs’ reeds come in advocating action he is somehow contained, given space, but contained nonetheless.  Produce a wasted note at your peril; Wild Red but not wilful.  Yellow with colour not green with envy.  It is an improvisation of manners. The final result is, in its own way, a beautiful story without words and narrative.  I don’t believe in perfection, but music like Wild Red Yellow makes me want to.

Finally, let’s give a mention to the sleeve notes written by master-craftsman jazz writer, Brian Morton.  They are worth the cost the album.  Over eight paragraphs Mr Morton sets out a hypothesis on the nature of “where does Asia” begin?  A profound short speculation on the socio interrelationship between the European, the American and the ‘Asiatic’.  I have not the space to devote a second ‘review’ to Morton’s concept.  I’ll therefore finish by quoting a small section which conveys a morsel of what’s on offer:

“If one quality of Asian cultures sets them apart from the European/American then it is a curiosity of language.  European tongues lack what might be called the ostensive case, the ability to put down “Dog” or “Tree” or “Stone”, and not imply a narrative: whose dog? in what landscape? is the dog peeing on the tree?  A quality of Asian art that troubles the Western eye is that the subject floats in the picture space without context.  It presents but doesn’t explain.  Larry Ochs’s music is often like that, and it is like that here.” 

There you have it, Wild Red Yellow floats.  If I’ve provided a little context for this floating, may this not detract from Brian Morton’s fascinating premise, or an album worthy of purchase.

Click here for details.

Click here for a video of Larry Ochs Sax And Drumming Core live at The White House 2009.

Steve Day  www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk

Back to Top : What's New

 

 

 

Peter Horsfall - Nighthawks

Album Released: 24th November 2017 - Label: APP Records - Reviewed: January 2018

Peter Horsfall Nighthawks

This CD from Peter Horsfall is the first album under his own name, a horn player with the swinging Kansas Smittys collective; he puts down his trumpet to sing lead vocals on this 10 track album. Of these, 3 are short instrumentals, two are covers and the rest are original compositions. As with other musicians, the inspiration for the project was Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks”. As Horsfall states “Edward Hopper’s painting of the same name has always chimed with me. The lonely figures of the night time scene; the waiter working until the early hours, the man sat lonesome at the counter. Perhaps it is musicians who are the definitive nighthawks.”

The rest of the band comes from Horsfall’s fellow musicians in the Kansas Smittys House Band based in a bar of the same name located in Hackney, East London. They are saxophonist Giacomo Smith, pianist Joe Webb, Ferg Ireland on double bass and Pedro Segundo on drums. On track 8, Couldn’t Stop Loving You, David Archer plays guitar, and backing vocals are provided by Cherise Coryna Adams-Burnett and Renato Paris.

Click here for a video of Couldn't Stop Loving You.

The lyrics to the songs are reproduced in a booklet that accompanies the album and that has original artwork of three water colours by Cecile McLorin Salvant.

The opening title track is a fitting introduction to the ‘Nighthawks’ theme and features “breathy” vocals from Horsfall whilst the backing musicians echo the lyrics with especially good accompaniment from Smith on alto sax and Segundo on drums. The two covers are, Barry Harris’ Paradise and Duke Ellington’s Sunset & The Mockingbird which has a new lyric.

The compositions by Horsfall are: Then I Saw You, Secretly, Couldn’t Stop Loving You and This Is Goodbye. The 3 instrumental sections are entitled Interludes 1-3 and as they are interludes, they are very short, but I would have liked a touch more of these atmospheric and melancholy pieces. The closing track This Is Goodbye is also appropriately titled and the drums and double bass lend a gravitas to the finale.

Edward Hopper Nighthawks

This is not a CD that gets your foot tapping, nor is it the most uplifting, but it is different. There is a strong nightclub set feel with some of the lyrics and vocals taking you straight back to the 1930s or '50s (eg. Paradise).

 

Edward Hopper - Nighthawks

 

 

Horsfall’s voice is hard to categorise, some comment it is “bittersweet”, “plaintive” or gritty”, perhaps it is just unique. However, although the structure with its mix of vocals and instrumental interludes is dated in itself, there is a sense of modernising in the contemplation within the lyrics. The album title is well echoed in the desolation from the sound of the voice and lyrics which enhance the late night vibe.

Click here for details and to sample the album.

Tim Rolfe

Back to Top : What's New

 

 

 

Favourite Animals - Favourite Animals

Album Released: 4th December 2017 - Label: Luminous Label - Reviewed: January 2018

Favourite Animals album

Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone); Sam Andreae (tenor saxophone); Anton Hunter (guitar); Seth Bennett (double bass); Johnny Hunter (drums); Dee Byrne (alto saxophone); Julie Kjaer (bass clarinet, flute); Tom Ward (bass clarinet, flute); Graham South (trumpet); Tullis Rennie (trombone).

When do ten Favourite Animals add up to five?  Roberts, Andreae, Bennett & 2 x Hunter’s are members of Sloth Racket (see our review archive).  The Racket is an improvising quintet led by baritone sax player Cath Roberts.  Over the last eighteen months they have begun to re-energise the process of spontaneous jazz composition/performance in the UK. This new larger version of Sloth Racket is an exciting development.  For sure if you’ve picked up on the quintet’s two previous albums Triptych and Shapeshifters you’re gonna dig this new Favourite Animals session.  But even if you found those first two precious gems a little demanding I’m suggesting you may well wish to consider this latest Cath Roberts project as a new start. 

Here comes the statement:  Favourite Animals is a brilliantly conceived big band construct, played by musicians who tip their tones to the Brotherhead of Breath, Keith Tippett’s The Ark, with a trace of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra somewhere down in the deep end.  There’s maybe even a smidgin of the great Loose Tubes in the mix.  For all that lineage, it is the FA’s who are now producing a radical contemporary music which is absolutely on the money.  The album was paid for by crowd funding; join the masses.  Favourite Animals comes very early in the year, but it makes January 2018 worth getting into; it’s a stunner!

Track one, Confirm Or Deny is undeniably ‘big’.  It steps out with a riff as huge as a dinosaur (no, this one is not extinct) and then creates space for flute/wind, reed smears to give us a whole rainforest of smaller Favourite invertebrates.  And I’m glad Cath Roberts gets in early with her baritone saxophone.  (Come ON, when do you get to hear a good bari exercising some discretion over proceedings?).  Anton Hunter’s guitar is bleeping his own spacey descriptions alongside the reeds and brass.  Plus, there’s that dinosaur riff building and fading providing a kind of compass point to the direction of travel.  The Drummer-Hunter forcefully batters his kit.  For a few bars it’s as if he’s joined the old Brecker Brothers.  Michael and Randy would have been scrambling for the open country if they’d ever been asked to get this close to a tight corner.  It’s the first track, eight minutes of creative mayhem, invention, and sheer joyous orchestrations and improv.  Already I’m congratulating the good people of the LUME collective for releasing these Favourite Animals from captivity.

Click here to listen to Confirm Or Deny.

The next fabulous track is called Unspeakable – I won’t let the title get in my way, because music like this gets to the core of what improvisation in contemporary orchestras is all about (and what it isn’t).  This is my interpretation, I don’t ‘speak’ for Cath Roberts or her crew.  The quality of Unspeakable comes direct from the interaction of the musicians, the ‘compositional’ element is in the form not the lines. It begins with Anton Hunter’s guitar, a simple chord shaping and theme setting the scenery, his brother Johnny logging the slow, slow pace of the piece with poised percussion positioning.  Everything else that is unveiled over the next eight-plus minutes grows out of these initial delicate conversational cadences.  Unspeakable doesn’t stay still, it isn’t soft focus ambient ‘Eno’, neither cathartic workout; every ‘Favourite Animal’ is on message. Reeds and brass almost shudder within their detailed front-line/backdrop of orchestration. Seth Bennett’s double bass ripples underneath the other nine like he’s had private information of the direction home.  A slightly extended version cries out for contemporary choreography.  When it dies away, using crushed electricity coming off the Guitar-Hunter, I have to agree the performance has become Unspeakable.  The word ‘Magic’, simply will not do.

Click here to listen to Unspeakable.

What follows are three contrasting tracks.  Boiling Point is introduced by reeds, brass and an investigative double bass. Byrne, Roberts and Andreae’s reeds achieve every angle other than playing a straight line.  They know the score (that there is no score), and the flute/bass clarinet partnership of Kjaer and Ward begin a circle dance of their own. South and Rennie’s brass come to the boil just as the reeds gradually begin to pull out some long lines of form.  The Hunter brothers have also imperceptibly established contact.  The Boiling Point is cooking.  By the time the tentet reach thirteen minutes there is an arrival. The end is a lovely thing for sure but it’s how they got there that is the real fascination.  Off-World is a different pitch and only half the length of Boiling. It is built on ‘small’ sourced sounds.  The Art Ensemble of Chicago came to something close to Off-World two or three decades ago.  How any improvising ensemble harbour the tiny detail in their capabilities is surely an important facet of their art.  The AEoC were/are true pioneers of the longevity of maintaining a stable line-up over years, over decades, across continents, through marriages and death, in politics and out of politics, via reeds, brass, drum&bass and literally another hundred other instruments collected on the journey.  May it be that twenty years from now there will be a Favourite Animals continuum that tracks their journey too.  I’d suggest, it’s that important, this music.  The longevity.  And as such the discovery of the ‘smaller’ sounds – the scrapes and rattles, the overblows, the percussion of sax pads, the bringing together of the brittle wire in electricity, and the choices made in bringing them together give a sense of ‘fit’ to musicians and thus the music they make.  It’s an Off-World. The real world.

The final track is called Shreds and there-in lies the clue. Shreds is literally conceived out of Shreds of everything that has gone before. So it begins with that Confirm Or Deny riff from track one and goes on to reference aspects of Unspeakable, Boiling Point and Off-World.  By ‘shredding’ the music there is an element of re-cycling, in so doing the content has become a different thing.  To my mind Shreds could be said to be a long coda seeking to reframe the ‘bandbook’ without calling any of it into question.  I like the way it just ends.  It just stops.  No returning to the Confirm Or Deny riff, in fact not confirming or denying anything.  In doing so Cath Roberts gives validity to the whole five track performance. And I like that too.

Over the last couple of years the Cath Roberts/Dee Byrne Lume Collective (as well as the Martin Archer Discus Label in Sheffield) have really made their own ‘Giant Steps’ on the UK jazz scene.  The fact that none of these people figured in the ‘British Jazz Awards 2017’ should not be considered a problem unless you want to find one.  Often, okay very often, that’s just how it is.  It doesn’t take away from all those excellent musicians who did figure in the Awards listings.  But this I know, Favourite Animals are making a ‘mindset’ change not just a musical one.  In doing so they represent an immensely positive start to 2018.  Stay on board for the Luminous long game. Brilliant.

Click here for details and to listen to the album.

Steve Day  www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk 

Back to Top : What's New

 

 

 

Freddy Randall And His Band - My Tiny Band Is Chosen (The Parlophone Years 1952 - 1957)

Album Released: 1st December 2017 - Label: Lake Records - Reviewed: January 2018

Freddy Randall My Tiny Band Is Chosen

Lake Records continue their retrospective collections by British jazz musicians with this compilation of tracks from trumpeter Freddy Randall and his Band. From the correspondence I receive, I know many readers have fond memories of the Freddy Randall band playing at venues such as Wood Green Jazz Club or Cooks Ferry Inn or from those who played with him such as Dave Keir and Gerry Salisbury, both who feature on this album.

As usual with Lake releases, Paul Adams has included informative liner notes, in this case looking back at the record labels that existed as the Trad boom grew in the 1940s and 1950s and how they responded to jazz. 'Parlophone on the other hand was the one label to embrace it from the word go' ..... 'Lyttelton and Randall produced two of the finest bands of the era. Freddy Randall did not achieve the fame and following Humph did, but given the number of records which were issued, they must have sold well enough to justify continuing with releases. In those days Freddy stuck doggedly to his Chicago / Condon / Spanier style: he was not frightened to use a guitar instead of a banjo and, like Humph, was prepared to use a saxophone'.

Freddy Randall was born in 1921 in Clapton, East London. At eighteen he was playing trumpet with the St Louis Four and with other bands as a sideman. After the War he led his own groups that would feature many top British jazz musicians such as Bruce Turner, Danny Moss and Brian Lemon, but he sadly gave up playing between 1958 and 1963 suffering from lung problems. He returned to the recording studio in the mid 1960s playing with Dave Shepherd and recorded for Black Lion Records in the early '70s. He passed away in 1999. at the age of 78. Click here for a full obituary for Freddy in The Independent.

In his liner notes, Paul Adams quotes Digby Fairweather as saying that Freddy played: 'in a style which varied at will from the direct punch of Muggsy Spanier to the more florid creations of Harry James and Charlie Teagarden ... his records of the 1950s period - for Parlophone's Super Rhythm Style - are great Jazz in any language'.

So here we have 24 tracks in all. 21 are from Parlophone and three 'from a very rare somewhat battered acetate and have never been issued before. In fact 'The recordings on the CD came from a variety of sources: original master tapes, 78 rpm discs, LP, EP and acetates ... the rarest sides are tracks 8, 9, and 10 (Smokey Mokes; The Sheik Of Araby and At The Jazz Band Ball) and they required the most work'. As you might guess, Paul Adams has produced the reproduction with care.

The first eleven tracks are from 1952 starting with a happy version of I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll and Freddy takes the vocal in a line up that includes Norman Cave, Bruce Turner, Lennie Felix, Lew Green, Ted Palmer and Lennie Hastings. Dark Night Blues is an interesting track with the effects introduced in the arrangement. Opening with Lew Green's guitar the use of muted brass make this a little different to the norm. Clarinet Marmalade romps away, as you might expect, punctuated by Norman Cave's trombone and with Bruce Turner interrupting before Norman takes his solo and Ted Palmer's bass duets with Art Straddon on piano. The Original Dixieland One-Step gets your feet tapping and has a nice, extended solo from Bruce Turner. If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) has a sensitive clarinet introduction with Freddy then taking the vocal and following it with a straight trumpet solo before Norman Cave's trombone enters. (I now realise that I have not given due notice in the past to Norman's playing).

Billy Banks takes the vocals on Tishomingo Blues with a line up where David Fraser on piano, Bob Coram on guitar and Ron Stone, bass, replace Art Straddon, Lew Green and Ted Palmer. Banks has a distinctive vocal style and here again Norman Cave makes himself heard. The same line up play Walking The Dog, a dance step described by Banks in his vocal. Bruce Turner's clarinet is a joy 'walking that dog, boy'! 'Do that slow drag round the hall ... drop just like a dog'. Smokey Mokes, one of the rare tracks here, has call and response with the rhythm section solidly driving the band through a great track that exudes 'happy'. The Sheik Of Araby ripples in with David Fraser's piano leading into a clear Freddy Randall trumpet solo before trombone and clarinet come out the play, and then At The Jazz Band Ball is taken fast; played this fast even the teens of the time would have had a job dancing to it! The same band line up slows down somewhat for Sunday with nice ensemble interaction and a solo from Bruce Turner before Freddy cuts in. Norman's trombone and David's piano each take us back to the ensemble. Let me mention again the solid rhythm section that ties things together well.

The next three tracks introduce a different line up from 1955. Trumpeter Dave Keir plays trombone here; Al Gay (a charming, highly respected musician I only met once and sadly never heard play live) has the clarinet; Betty Smith is on tenor sax, Harry Smith on piano and bass, and Stan Bourke has the drums. They take the title track, a derivative My Tiny Band Is Chosen, with a storming solo from Freddy Randall and a short swinging burst from Betty Smith. They follow it with Hindustan with a weaving clarinet from Al Gay before Betty solos again. Al Gay has his solo turn as does Harry Smith on piano before the ensemble drives to the finish. W.C. Handy's Memphis Blues makes use of the front line in unison and Al Gay, Freddy Randall and Harry Smith take the solos. Another band change has Pete Hodge coming in on trombone, Syd Boatman at the piano and Jack Peberdy on bass for November Blues with Freddy on muted trumpet for a call and reponse beginning. Al Gay, Pete Hodge, Betty Smith and the muted Freddy take solos on this smooth version. Ja Da has Orme Stuart on trombone and Harry Smith is back at the piano. No mute to Freddy's cutting trumpet here and Al Gay's clarinet dances lightly before trombone, bass, piano and drums solo.

Another change for the next three tracks sees Eddie Thompson on piano for a welcome version of Sugar reminding us how good these musicians were. That Da Da Strain and Ain't Misbehavin' bring more good solos to old favourites. Esox and Jealousy bring an interesting change as trumpeter Gerry Salisbury takes over on bass! Gerry told me that Freddy Randall’s one-time piano player, Mike Bryan, phoned Gerry to say that he was starting up a band to play at the United States Air Force bases throughout France. Lennie Hastings, Tony Coe, and others had signed up but Mike needed a bass player – was Gerry interested? Gerry had just two weeks to learn. Mike offered Gerry an old string bass that was at Mike’s house, and two weeks later, Gerry went to France and stayed for six months playing with the band. Esox has some good solos at differing tempos.

Which brings us to the three 'bonus' tracks. These have much the same line up as the Billy Banks tracks from 1952 but without the vocalist and with Dave Fraser on piano. Avalon, Mood Indigo and New Orleans Masquerade are from battered acetates, not from Parlophone and are previously unissued. Lake Records have done an excellent job with the reproduction and with Bruce Turner's clarinet and Bob Coram's guitar on Avalon; Freddy's trumpet and Norman Cave's trombone on Mood Indigo and the Masquerade jauntily taking us out, these are welcome 'finds'.

If you remember Freddy Randall's band, this is a compilation worth having. If you don't remember Freddy Randall, this is not only a fine introdution to the bandleader but a great reminder of some early nuggets from British musicians who should not be forgotten.

Click here for details and to sample the album.

Ian Maund

Back to Top : What's New

 

 

 

Fraser And The Alibis - Fraser & The Alibis

Album Released: 1st October 2017 - Label: Self Released - Reviewed: January 2018

Fraser and the Alibis

This eponymous debut album from Fraser & The Alibis is the result of someone's Dad suggesting the band do a recording.  The group of erstwhile music students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama met at college and have been playing together for around 10 years.  The band features Fraser Smith on tenor saxophone,  Joe Webb on Hammond organ, Harry Sankey on guitar and Gethin Jones on drums.  The album has seven tracks and lasts twenty five minutes in total. 

Major influences for the band include tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, guitarist Wes Montgomery and organist Jack McDuff; all musicians who were active around the 1960s during the hard bop and soul jazz era. This style of music came into being in reaction to both the cool jazz of the 1950s and rock and roll which was rapidly gaining popularity with young audiences at the time. Hard bop is dynamic and vigorous music with roots in gospel and blues and Fraser Smith & The Alibis happily embrace this genre with gusto, Joe Webb's Hammond organ in particular evoking giants of the style such as Jimmy Smith.  All of the tunes are compositions by Fraser Smith.

Fraser Smith describes the music the band play as straight ahead jazz, in other words a melody (or head) establishing a chord progression that is typically repeated each time a band member plays a solo. This approach is commonly adopted in jam sessions and at jazz clubs and pubs where perhaps a visiting soloist plays with the house rhythm section and it is enjoyed by many jazz fans, particularly when the soloists are really good.  Luckily this band does have some really good musicians with a combination of instruments that provide excellent opportunities for some exciting music.

The first two tracks are classics of the straight ahead genre, entitled Dream and French Toast respectively. Both melodies have Smith's distinctive, burly saxophone providing the introduction and lively solos from saxophone, organ and guitar.  The next track is a blues, called B's Blues, and is the longest track on the album; the title could indicate a link to BB King and the guitar does get the first solo.  Track 4, On The Green reverts back to the original format with another strong saxophone melody and some really good solo improvisations.

Click here for a video of Fraser and the Alibis playing On The Green at Sofar, London on March 31st, 2017.

Track 5, Breakout, raises the tempo considerably with a bebop style piece, energetic drumming and solos that really demonstrate the bands skill and versatility. Tracks 6 and 7, Boogaloo Stew and The Woods return to the straight ahead style which Fraser Smith and the band are passionate about. 

The straight ahead style of jazz and hard bop played by Fraser Smith & The Alibis was probably most popular in the 1960s and again from 1980s but is still enjoyed today by many and it is they who will most appreciate this album.  The album transfers your local jazz club into your living room and this may be an attractive option if winter tightens its icy grip and no one fancies venturing out of the house. The band is made up of some talented, energetic musicians who are making their way in the music world playing different styles of jazz in various bands, which is confirmed on the band website where it states that the band has an unrivalled repertoire of American songbook and classic popular tunes and that they have played at over 500 private and corporate events.  In view of this it is a little disappointing that the album is rather short and could perhaps have been improved with some extra tracks, maybe a ballad or two and some variations of tempo and rhythm. 

Click here to listen to the complete debut album from Fraser and the Alibis.

Click here for Fraser and the Alibis' website.

Click here for our 'Tea Break' with Fraser.

Howard Lawes

Back to Top : What's New

 

 

 

Josephine Davies - Satori

Album Released: 24th February 2017 - Label: Whirlwind Recordings - Reviewed: January 2018

Josephine Davies Satori

Josephine Davies (tenor & soprano saxophones);  Dave Whitford (double bass); Paul Clarvis (drums).

The inventive percussionist Paul Clarvis hasn’t crossed my path for a few years.  It’s probably a matter of where I’ve been, not him.  (His world’s bigger than mine.)  No matter, it’s great to rattle my ears again with his take on time.  Paul Clarvis smacks drumhead, rim and metal in a way that edges a band forward; like dodging dodgems.  There’s something Southend-On-Sea about him.  Here Mr Clarvis is in partnership with bassist Dave Whitford.  A man who is so damn linear he runs a continuous line straight through this session.  He could lead you into tomorrow without you realising midnight had passed the witching hour.  Why, what’s on their agenda?  Josephine Davies.  A reeds player who is new to me.  Her soprano is both strong and smooth, her tenor a feed off all those names you already know, yet she definitely has her own way of doing stuff.  Dances the sound of her two horns into some very fine music.  Already the Satori session could be said to have raised the game, at least in the UK. 

The fact that Ms Davies has taken (what still seems like) a bold step and dispensed with ‘comping chords’ is to her credit.  No piano or guitar.  The Clarvis/Whitford team afford her all the clarity she needs.  Satori has got to rate as a debut classic, full of fine artistry and unfettered melodic investigations, brimming over with pleasure.  She name-checks Sibelius on the cover.  Okay, I wouldn’t know about that.  I’d checkmate Ornette and call it a day.

The opener, Insomnia is all melodic soprano, a nice taster.  Then you hit this short thing called Something Small played on a new voice tenor and it seems as if the leader has just opened the windows.  She might as well be reading poetry.  The saxophone is singing unaccompanied for the first verse then Mr Whitford’s bass begins following her note for note, and that man Clarvis is shaking his drum kit around the pair of them as if the party’s over and they’re making their way home through deserted streets where they’ve got the whole width of the road.  Josephine Davies is faintly awesome, dying a note the way Charles Lloyd used to.  She lets this Something Small bleed into the third track The Tempest Prognosticator (a 19th Century leech barometer – no, I don’t know either). To my ears it begins before the other has ended.  It doesn’t matter, that’s why Something Small is recorded, just play the track over and over again until you’ve convinced yourself it’s the tonic you’ve been searching for since the coming of the winter solstice. Then you can allow entry to The Prognosticator and wake up to the realisation that here is another whole composition turned into an experiment as powerful as medication.  A tight bass and drum duet leads into the tenor getting turned on until it swings and races through the non-existent ‘changes’ like Jarrett or someone similar had got hold of an invisible score and was playing them in silence.  I tell ya, she’s the real thing.  And this trio is exactly where she should be right now.  Ms Davies has been in the reeds ranks of both the Pete Hurt Orchestra and the London Jazz Orchestra.  Fine, but having some space around her is definitely what’s needed. 

Click here to listen to The Tempest Prognosticator.

It’s not always true that the longest cut is the deepest.  But I’m going to try and make that case for Snakes.  It’s not that Snakes is way ahead of the pack.  This album is consistently good from the git-go.  Snakes is singled out because it begins languid and loose, almost a casual slow blues pulled from the pocket; there’s Clarvis worrying the cymbals, Whitford pulling off a bass line like he borrowed it and can’t give it back, and the tenor unthreatening and late-night.  But as the saxophone talks, it begins to speak of midnight’s demons and gradually unfolds into something close to Coltrane when he was still recording for Atlantic. It’s possible to position the saxophone with such a description.  But it really will not do.  Let’s start a new paragraph.

Click here to listen to Snakes.

This Satori album contains two takes of a composition called Paradoxy which are a straight nod to Sonny Rollins both in the title and recital, but Snakes has much bolder ambitions.  Josephine manages to squeeze through the gap in mere ‘homage’.  Her Snakes contain venom.  It is one of four tracks on the album recorded live at the Jazz Nursery at Southwark. Listen carefully and you can hear the audience respond to this ‘snake’ (a term Evan Parker used to use for his horn).  There’s a couple of other smart performances, Crisp Otter (say it fast and think of a famous America tenor player).  There’s an odd time signal, a theme which spreads out and then closes in on itself. I like the fact that a dedication can both invoke another player without paraphrasing them. 

The other key track is a spare twisting, circling thing called The Yips.  It runs the Davies soprano very close to the territory of Jane Ira Bloom.  Ms Davis allows the straight horn to sing through its full length.  The sound simply takes off.  And it’s here that the Clarvis/Whitford partnership becomes embedded.  There’s space given to a truly creative tangled percussion/single noted duet - all brushed snare smacks and flip flicks, double bass picking a line free of borders.  Yippee!

Click here to listen to Something Small.

I’m totally convinced.  Josephine Davies needs to hang onto this trio.  I hope to hear them again, live and on disk.  Someone put the word out – DAVIES, CLARVIS, WHITFORD. 

Click here for details and to sample the album.

Steve Day  www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk

Back to Top : What's New

 

 

Alan Barnes and David Newton - Ask Me Now

Album Released: January / February 2018 - Label: Woodville Records - Reviewed: January 2018

Alan Barnes and David Newton Ask Me Now

Alan Barnes and David Newton, two stalwarts of the British jazz scene, have been collaborating on various projects for 40 years. Ask Me Now is their latest joint outing and features Barnes on clarinet, and alto, soprano and baritone saxophones; and Newton on piano. Together, they elegantly work their way through eleven pieces ranging from old standards to some less familiar tunes.

The sleeve notes nonchalantly tell us that the album was “recorded ‘round Ronnie Smith’s house, Watford on 12th and 13th July 2017” and, indeed, photos of the recording session on the sleeve show microphones, musicians and instruments within the cosy domestic setting of stairs, halls and sitting rooms. This lends an appealingly intimate tone to the album, as if the musicians were performing in your own sitting room. You can almost hear them breathing – and what sounds like humming on occasion. It has to be said, though, that there is nothing home-made about the recording quality which is superb.

There is a freshness to the album which may also be partly a consequence of the recording context. Familiar tunes, like the Jerome Kern opening track, I Won’t Dance, are played as if they’d never been played before. The quality of the improvising is a factor here – both Barnes and Newton are skilled and imaginative improvisers who never allow themselves to settle into a complacent groove.

Another factor contributing to the fresh feel is the emotion which both musicians invest in their playing. Listening to Barnes’s lilting and passionate alto on I Won’t Dance, for example, is enough to convince you that, no, he won’t dance. Ever. But it is on clarinet, of which he is surely one of the modern masters, that Barnes can be at his most feeling and lyrical. On the Luiz Bonfa tune, The Gentle Rain, for example, his warm clarinet leaps and soars.

Even on baritone, which sometimes I find can be a cumbersome, rather cold instrument, Barnes hits the mood time after time – pleasantly melancholic on Billy Strayhorn’s Ballad For Very Sad And Very Tired Lotus Eaters; wistful but intense on the old standard, Little Man, You’ve Had A Busy Day; humorous and agile on the title track, Thelonious Monk’s Ask Me Now.   

But this is not the Alan Barnes Show with Newton providing the accompaniment. This is a genuine collaboration with both musicians interacting beautifully, their contributions knitting together to create constantly satisfying performances. On The Gentle Rain, for example, Newton’s arpeggios mimic the sound of said rain perfectly. On Ask Me Now, Newton is just as agile and imaginative as Barnes, and both capture the Monk-like mood of the piece. The Harry Warren composition, You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me, sounds like the two musicians are having a far-reaching conversation with each other in the pub.

Barnes contributes one of his own compositions to the album: The Sun, The Sea, The Stars, And Me, originally composed for lyrics by Alan Plater. As a tune, it easily holds its own with the rest of the album, with an attractive bossa nova rhythm rendered superbly by Newton. Not to be outdone, Newton brings his own composition, Looking At You – coincidentally, another gentle bossa nova (and another memorable tune) – to the table.

The highlight of the whole album is a version of Duke Ellington’s The Mooche. Barnes plays some marvellously passionate and brooding clarinet, engaging with all the different moods and registers of the piece. Newton’s bluesy piano has touches of Ellington and Monk, but is mainly Newton. Both players manage to sound like a much bigger ensemble than a duo, locking together in a compelling performance which would surely have even impressed the Duke himself.

This album will be available on Woodville Records during January 2018 and more widely from February.

Click here for a video of Alan Barnes and David Newton playing The Song Is You in 2017 with Eryl Roberts (drums) and Ed Harrison (bass) - [Not on the album].

Click here for Alan Barnes' website. Click here for David Newton's website.

Robin Kidson

Back to Top : What's New

 

 

These reviews are the personal impressions/opinions of each reviewer. Where we can, we provide links to samples of the albums so that readers can make up their own minds.

© Sandy Brown Jazz 2018

 

Like us on FacebookFacebook