‘Tea & Toast’ opens the album with a faded in drums and keys before the sax of Bob Mintzer breaks through with a repeating refrain. There is some nice trumpet punctuation from Tom Walsh. Then comes the guitar of John Wheatcroft that changes the direction of the tune before Bob Mintzer returns to main the main melody, which continues to the end with the fade out matching the fade in at the beginning of the track. ‘Direct Input’ took me straight back to 70s American TV. Bryan Corbett features on the trumpet and plays with great style. I would say that is a stronger track than the opener, more varied and certainly held my interest over its seven minutes plus length.
‘Along Came Milly’ features Gwilym Simcock on piano (I have long been an admirer of this pianist). The track fades in with drums and keys before saxophonist Simon Niblock introduces the main melodic line, which is made up of repeating phrases. The tune only really becomes interesting when Gwilym’s jazz style piano playing comes to the fore. After the piano solo the tune returns to the main melody and continues through to the end. ‘Monte Carlo’ is a jazz funk number with vocals from Miranda Wilford. This is a number that I could imagine going down well in the clubs with its horn section playing strongly under the vocals and the danceable beat.
‘JP’ starts gently, and I did wonder where it was going to go. Fiona Asbury and Sammy Mayne feature on saxophone before the band kick in at around the 1’50 mark, the sound just fills out and we are in that upbeat jazz/soul/funk vibe with a touch of Afro-Cuban thrown in for good measure. The tune then relaxes and plays out the way it played in. ‘Hiding to Nothing’ is the longest track of the album and is out and out funk in style. There is a driving drumbeat, blues style guitar from Mike Outram work and laid back saxophone and while all the musicians played their parts well I felt that the track went on too long and lacked the variation to sustain interest over its nine and a half minutes (however, the reviewer at jazzworld.com thought differently – your choice).
‘Faithless’ comes in at track seven with its great trumpet opening before the vocal of Noel Sullivan joins the fray. This is a good track, and it is the vocal and trumpet combination that make it so. Tommy Emmerton throws in enjoyable guitar work for good measure: a potential stand-out track. Richard Beadle guests on piano for ‘You Are’, a nice lyrical number that gives the listener an opportunity to relax a bit before the tempo pick up a bit on ‘Trying Too Hard’ featuring Simon Lind on guitar. Again, there is that over reliance on a short, repeated melody played by the saxophonist. The guitar sound is good, and the tune has a good driving beat, and I did enjoy the keys section.
‘Red Beret’ is the album’s penultimate track and has Mark Cox guesting on guitar. The string section on the opening bars is great as is the funk styling. Like ‘Direct Input’ there is a nostalgic feel to this tune. The guitar playing is good as is the bass solo, which, along with the strings, gives the tune an added dimension. ‘Scotty the Brave’ brings the album to its conclusion. There is a well-played drum solo from Elliot Henshaw (not overplayed, so very much to my liking) and some interesting melodic twists that held my attention.
I did struggle a bit reviewing this album and that was largely down to the very repetitive nature of some of the tracks. I remember reading something from pianist Mikael Mani that “jazz from the golden era is the circle form – the same 32 bars repeated, with different soloists giving their opinions on the form”. For me, this album does not give enough opinion on the form and the circle form is too tight. However, this is not an out and out jazz album: I would describe it more as a soul/funk album with a jazz inflection and the audience for this style of music will probably love it.
Elliott Henshaw -drums; Andrew McKinney – bass; James Pusey – guitar; Matt Steele – keys; Simon Willescroft – Sax. + Guests (see image below)
1. Tea & Toast 2. Direct Input 3. Along Came Milly 4. Monte Carlo 5. JP 6. Hiding To Nothing 7. Faithless 8. You Are 9. Trying Too Hard 10. Red Beret 11. Scotty The Brave