Dave & Judith O’Higgns released their album His ‘n’ Hers back in October of 2020 and my vinyl copy arrived early February – nothing to do with slow delivery just a late order. Ordinarily I would have purchased a CD copy but the blurb on Bandcamp stated that the “recording has been prepared specifically for vinyl” and who am I to argue?
The appeal of this medium was to present something considered and well programmed in an elegantly digestible format. Pour yourself a glass of wine and listen to Side 1, whilst perusing the large-scale cover art and familiarising yourself with the tune titles and personnel. Then, 18 minutes later it will be time for a refill and you’ll be lured into hearing what Side 2 brings. An LP requires careful programming on the part of the artist, in the same way as a good set at a gig. The track order is crucial and, due to the nature of the medium, often listened to in the intended order. The CD format can be the musical equivalent of the “all you can eat” buffet – too much for one sitting! In addition, the tactile, analogue nature of the 12” disc encourages focused engagement, not ripping onto a digital device for shuffled play in the background.Album sleeve notes
Let’s start with the music, seven tracks of original and cover material:
Tracklist: 1. Fourth Dimension. 2. We’ll Forget March. 3. Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. 4. Los Bandidos Bogarolles. 5. Save Your Love for Me. 6. Soy Califa.
Played by: Judith O’Higgins – tenor sax (left channel), Dave O’ Higgins- tenor sax (right channel), Graham Harvey – piano, Jeremy Brown – double bass, Josh Morrison – drums
Side A begins with the self-penned ‘Fourth Dimension’, a lively opener on the post-bop style. The front- line trade solos and there is fine piano playing from Graham Harvey. Drummer Josh Morrison also gets the opportunity to show off his playing with some effective drum breaks. This is followed by ‘We’ll Forget March” – also written by the husband and wife sax team – a slightly mellower tune than the opening number. The saxes play off each other in a mutually supporting role, which helps contribute to the lyricism of the tune. Graham Harvey is, once again, in good form as is bass player Jeremy Brown who gets the opportunity to come to the fore on this tune. The last tune on Side A is a very relaxed ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most’ written by Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman. This is beautiful ballad with Dave and Judith complementing each other’s playing from the left and right hand channels. The support from the rhythm section is sublime and the track brings this side of the vinyl album to a very relaxed end.
At this point I took Dave’s advice and paused for a while before flipping over the record and settling down for Side B. ‘Los Bandidos Bogarolles’ (a pandemic reference to the toilet roll shortage in the first lock down? A very Dave O’Higgins humorous play with song titles) has “obliquely developed lines” according to the sleeve notes. This number is different to the other two written by Dave and Judith: there is an angularity to the tune that I enjoyed and there is a lovely section where Jeremy Brown on bass is given the opportunity to stretch out. ‘Save Your Love for Me’, written by Buddy Johnson, takes the listener straight back to that mainstream jazz era that I believe the O’Higgins’ had in their minds when putting this album together. The vinyl album closes with Dexter Gordon’s catchy ‘Soy Califa’. The Afro-Cuban feel to this tune gives an uplifting ending to the album. The two saxes work their way through the tune collaboratively with the piano of Graham Harvey filling in the gaps between solos so well. The CD and digital download versions of His ‘n’ Hers gets an additional Dexter Gordon track in ‘Hanky Panky’.
I enjoyed this album not because it gave me anything new – even the tunes written by Dave and Judith, although new, had a familiarity to them because of the style in which they are written – but because it is played throughout by first rate British jazz musicians who know how to put on a show. Dave and Judith wanted to put out “a well programmed [set] in an elegantly digestible format” and in that they have achieved. I am also pleased that I went for the vinyl edition for all the reasons quoted at the top of this review and on the sleeve notes: engage with this album over time, enjoy the tactility of the physical format and take that pause between sides to reflect on what you have just heard.