With a career spanning twenty years so far, Lewis Harding is a professional musician performing and writing in a wide array of styles, from jazz to EDM (Electronic Dance Music), rock to reggae. Palm Thievery is the debut jazz album release from Lewis and was recorded at The Playroom in Arundel, West Sussex.
The opening track, ‘George’s Salamander’, has a great big band sound about it with horns and vibraphone introducing the number before the sax takes over which, in turn, hands over to the guitar of Lewis Harding. There is a softer toned middle section that is a nice contrast to the opening. Martijin Van Galen gets to play a short solo before the band start subtly winding up the energy to bring the track to a close. ‘Above’ is a simple sounding ballad with Kate Hogg leading on tenor sax. Lewis Harding plays a beautiful sounding solo on guitar with nicely pitched accompaniment from Tom Phelan at the piano before taking his own solo. This is a delightfully lyrical piece of writing and the musicians involved play with finesse and elegance.
‘Octopods’ is a horn led mid-tempo number with more great sounding trumpet from Martijin Van Galen. Lewis Harding again adds some fine guitar work before the horn section gives a brief interlude leading to a wonderful sonorous baritone sax solo from Julian Nicholas. The horn section returns with more great lines to finish out the tune: a fabulous horn section number. ‘Hue 6’ is another stylish ballad with a delightful melody played out on the piano, there is a beautifully played sax into guitar section with piano accompaniment that is so well balanced that it would be churlish not to be impressed.
The title track, ‘Palm Thievery’ begins with an introduction that draws the listener into a false idea as to how the tune is going to shape up. Once the main theme kicks in the feel of the number changes to something with a party vibe, great guitar lines, a strong pulsing rhythm from drummer Dave Cottrell with horns moving in and out of the tune between well delivered solo spots. ‘Clues in Bhutan’ takes the tempo down again and presents a meandering sort of tune with subtle changes in tonal colour and texture. There is more to this number than first meets the ears: it is as emotive as it is relaxing. It has a wonderful melody that is unhurried, with a soft arch contour that emphasises the quality of the writing.
The final track on Palm Thievery is also the longest on the album – coming in at a little over nine minutes. The opening has a reflective quality about it that builds slowly with the delicate muted trumpet of Van Galen catching the attention of the listener as it fades in and then out again to allow for Harding’s guitar to take the lead. There is a delightful extended sax solo but what makes it so interesting is what is happening beneath the solo: the piano, vibes, drumming all adding their own layer of sound on which the sax can weave its melodic line before everything fades out to nothing.
Lewis Harding does not describe himself as a jazz musician but with the release of Palm Thievery I think he may have to reconsider his musical label. This is a well-balanced album in terms of structure, with some quite remarkable writing and a group of musicians who evidently understand how to put across Lewis’ compositions. This is a very good nine-piece outfit who know how to play refined, stylish contemporary jazz written by someone with a real feel for the art form.
Palm Thievery is available from Bandcamp.
Musicians: Lewis Harding – rhythm & lead guitar; Dave Cottrell – drums; Terry Pack – double bass; Tom Phelan – Piano; Richard Horne – vibraphone & percussion; Martijin Van Galen – trumpet & flugelhorn; Charlotte Glasson – soprano & alto saxophone; Kate Hogg – alto & tenor saxophone; Julian Nicholas – tenor & baritone saxophone.
Horn arrangements by Mike Saunders.
Tracklist: 1. George’s Salamander. 2. Above. 3. Octopods. 4. Hue 6. 5. Palm Thievery. 6. Clues In Bhutan. 7. Nine Steps Between.
All music written by Lewis Harding with additional material on ‘George’s Salamander’ written by Tom Phelan.