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.

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