Until I heard John Horler perform at Southampton Jazz Club, he was depping for another player at the last moment, I have to admit to not being aware of him or knowingly having heard him play before. I very much enjoyed what I heard and saw that evening so, of course, just had to check him out further.
As it would happen John had released a solo album, john horler solo piano free and easy, on the Trio Records label, 2018. Normally I would have checked the album out before putting in an order but on this occasion I didn’t, I just took a punt: I was not disappointed.
There are thirteen tracks on this album, five of which are free pieces. These free pieces are short, nothing more than two minutes, but they are complete and a joy to listen to. John’s touch is delicate, thoughtful and he gives the notes he plays room to breathe.
The second track on the album is dedicated to his wife Poppy, who commissioned the album. “piece for poppy” is a beautiful composition played with a sense of reflection, a piece I could happily push the repeat button on as the more one listens the more is revealed – I also wonder what a piece dedicated to me might sound like.
There are no weak tracks on this album but listening through again I really enjoyed “beija flor” written by Nelson Cavaquinho. Having said that I only had to move on a couple of more tracks and Neal Hefti’s “after supper” is played and I think maybe that is the track I should be highlighting. The real joy of this album is John’s beautiful understated playing that grabs you from the outset and does not let you go until the last note of track thirteen. The quiet pianist of British Jazz should be listened to, enjoyed and shared.
At last I get to write a review on some live music, which I got to hear at Southampton Jazz Club Tuesday, 15 January, 2019. The act in question was the Brandon Allen/Tim Lapthorn Quartet (BATL). Brandon Allen I have seen before when he was touring his TheGene Ammons Project CD back in 2017 – if you are not familiar with the album it is worth checking out.
The first thing to say is that I thought Brandon looked much more relaxed than he did when I saw him previously. Now this could be to do with the fact that he was playing alongside Tim Lapthorn, a partnership that goes back some seventeen years.
The line-up was Brandon Allen on tenor sax, Tim Lapthorn on keyboard, Oli Hayhurst was the bass player (who was deputizing at the last minute for Tim Thornton) and Lloyd Haines was on drums.
The first set kicked off with a Brandon Allen composition Gone But Not Forgotten. This largely featured the rhythm section with injections of sax playing from Brandon. The tune was different from what I had heard before from this player and in many ways did not set the tone for what was to follow in that it had a much more contemporary feel to it. A special mention must go to Oli Hayhurst for some excellent bass playing during this number.
Lazy Days followed, which for me was a reminder of some of the best melodic jazz of the 1950s. The next tune, Running Away With Me, is one inspired by the music and playing of Stan Getz and Kenny Barron and featured the first drum solo of the evening – always a crowd pleaser and Lloyd Haines certainly pleased this crowd.
The Tim Lapthorn’s composition Cuckoo is a beautiful ballad that showed off Tim’s playing to the full. He then handed over to Oli for a wonderful bass solo. All of this was underpinned by the subtle brushwork of Lloyd Haines on drums. Brandon’s sax playing throughout this tune was mellow and really did emphasize the appeal of the piece. Apparently this quartet have not recorded but if/when they do Cuckoo should feature on the album.
The first set finished with a Chick Corea tune before the band took a short break. The second set started with another Tim Lapthorn number, this time Turn to Life which, in terms of tempo, took up where the first set ended. This was followed by Brandon Allen’s Theodore, written for his three month old son of the same name. This was a bright, mid tempo number with a great melody – Theodore should be pleased with this one.
The second set continued with A Little Love Song, which Brandon dedicated to the Jazz Fusion outfit Weather Report. There were definitely reflections of that band in this tune and a number of the audience clearly enjoyed hearing them. Home was written by Brandon following a recent trip home to Australia. It was a thoughtful piece that could be said to be the lull before the storm of F… the Right.
That last mentioned tune should have finished the set but there was a call for Skylark from a member of the audience in celebration of her soon to be 82nd birthday. The lady in question was clearly known to Brandon and, therefore, he and the band duly obliged the request with a wonderful rendition of this popular Hoagy Carmichael tune.
I said at the beginning of this review that I thought Brandon Allen appeared more relaxed than when I had seen him previously. Brandon spent quite a bit of the time sat out to the side of the stage, alongside the audience, and played from there. I felt that this gave the whole performance a very intimate feel, a performance that only comes from a musician totally at ease with his fellow players, his music, and his horn.