Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Ribble Valley Jazz Club Band – Lunchtime Live at the Grand

Ahead of the first annual Ribble Valley Jazz Festival in Clitheroe this month, it seems apt to review a live recording of the one of the club’s popular lunchtime concerts. Only established in 2007, Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues have worked tirelessly to achieve what they have thus far. What began simply as a way for local players to get together and jam has resulted in a solid band that plays regularly, a series of jazz workshops for younger players, a youth big band competition and now an annual jazz festival. As well as establishing a healthy schedule of local gigs and events, the organisation has also attracted some of the country’s premier acts including Steve Berry, Alan Barnes and Eric Ainsworth.

Recorded at one of the Club’s lunchtime concerts at the Grand in Clitheroe, this CD does a good job of showcasing some of this region’s talent. Lead by Brian Taylor on saxophone, flute and harmonica, this particular unit play through 13 tracks of varying pace and mood. Taylor himself is on excellent form, especially on Autumn Leaves where his subtle flute playing dances above the Kevin Morris’ measured guitar. On other tracks though Morris digs deep and provides some of the best solos of the session. On Angel Eyes the group adopt an almost rolling blues backdrop for the guitarist to crunch through some muscular lines. Nick Mohan is an economic pianist who chooses his notes with care, and along with bassist Ed Harrison and Tom Rice on drums, he plays a major part in keeping this quintet knitted together well.

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The Magic Hat Ensemble – This Conversation is Over

This Manchester based group was forged out of the city’s healthy jamming scene and by the sound of this, their debut recording; their chops are all the sharper for it. ‘This Conversation is Over’ is an album of standards that manages to achieve the difficult task of maintaining a distinctive voice throughout. Quirky metres and off kilter arrangements are the deal of the week here, with classic tracks such as Monk’s Epistrophy being given the Magic treatment with some extreme syncopation and playful phrasing. Guitarist Tony Ormesher steps forward with a particularly fluid delivery on this occasion, but the truth be told, there seems to be no one player in this group that gives any slack.

The pace and tone of the record varies throughout with injections of energy being applied on tracks such as Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Up Jumping Spring’, or ‘This Song is You’, in which trumpet player Steve Chadwick opts for a more muscular approach than Chet Baker’s classic envisioning of the song.  Interspersed with these moments of straight ahead adrenaline, there are some wonderful pit stops where the band are able to slow things down and show that they are capable of delivering elegance and poignancy  too. Kenny Barron’s Voyage is given a particularly sophisticated going over with bassist Nick Blacka delivering shades and shadows of film noir inflections throughout.

Due to both the dynamic choice of tunes and the high level of playing that is delivered without, this is very likeable a debut CD that is bursting with ideas.