Clark Tracey + four youngsters

The third Tuesday of every month is jazz night at Southampton Jazz Club and June’s event will certainly be one I shall remember for a long time: it was a superlative defying two sets of live jazz music.

The Clark Tracey Quintet

The Clark Tracey Quintet were in town and featured Alex Ridout on trumpet, Sean Payne was playing alto sax; Elliot Sansom was at the piano with James Owston on double bass and, of course, Clark Tracey was behind the drum kit. Once introductions had been made the tune “If I Were a Bell”, written by Frank Loesser for the musical Guys & Dolls, got the evening under way with each of the players taking a solo before the trumpet, sax, and piano played short bursts interspersed by drum vignettes from Clark – a terrific opening fifteen minutes of live jazz music.

The Kenny Wheeler tune “Foxy Trot”, from the new Album No Doubt, followed on and this was a very different style from the opener. Pianist Elliot Sansom played the opening bars before Sean Payne, on alto, brought a very atmospheric, ethereal quality to the tune. So what would be next?

The Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn number “The Star-Crossed Lovers” was said by Clark to be a sophisticated tune that eighteen year old Sean Payne would take the lead on.

This was, quite simply, one the most moving ballads I have heard played live. The control, pace and phrasing were beautiful to hear. If this is the future of jazz playing in this country then we are in very safe hands and I shall be very interested in seeing this guy leading his own band in a live setting.

“Seven Four Seven” was written by Clark and is a new tune to the band – the band have been together about eighteen months – and was the only time all the musicians read the music. The tune was great fun and is soon to be recorded, which will be great to hear again … and again. The first set finished with the Victor Feldman tune “Joshua”. Bassist James Owston led with a solo before Sean’s sax took off at a blistering pace and kept going to the end of the number and the first set.

The second set opened with the Alex Ridout penned “Top Dog”. Thirteen minutes of a new tune from the former BBC Young Musician Jazz award winner. I was very impressed when I first heard Alex, in this line-up, at the Swanage Jazz Festival, 2018, and hearing her again just confirms how good a player she is. She also turns out to be a very good tunesmith as well.

“Stars Fell on Alabama” gave us another chance to hear focus on Alex’s playing as she lead on this ballad written in 1934 by Frank Perkins. There were also solo’s from Elliot Sansom and James Owston.

It really was good to hear an extended bass solo from James and he is a player very much worth listening to, though I get the impression that he is very happy to be in the background and let Alex and Sean take the spotlight.

“Veracruz” was the penultimate tune of the evening that started out with a Latin vibe before becoming a mainstream tune that was a joy to hear. The evening finished with the Jimmy Deuchar tune “Suddenly Last Tuesday”. This was a great Be-bop tune to close the second set with all the players getting a final chance to show off their soloing skills and this included, for the first time all evening, drummer and band leader Clark Tracey.

This may go down as one of the best live jazz gigs I have seen at Southampton Jazz Club, I was still smiling the following morning as I remembered the night before. There are still some very good names yet to play this year at the club but it will be against this amazing quintet that their performances will be measured.

Tracks played 3 May, 2019

Small hospital radio station big on jazz every Friday 4 ’til 6pm (GMT)

Sounds Like Jazz is a Gosport Hospital Radio production and these are the tracks played on the above date:

  • Cittagazze by Portico Quartet from the album Knee Deep in the North Sea, 2007
  • Smaragd (Emerald) by Milan Svoboda from the album Solo Piano Recital, 1997
  • Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) by Us3 from the album Hands on the Torch, 1993
  • Dance Me to the End of Love by Madeleine Peyroux from the album Careless Love, 2004
  • After Supper by John Horler from the album Free and Easy, 2018
  • E-Flat Triangle by Geoff Gascoyne from the album Keep it to Yourself, 2005
  • Sprezzatura by Freddie Gavita from the album Transient, 2017
  • Bullet Train by Wynton Marsalis from the album Big Train, 1998
  • Conga Total / El Cumbanchero by Harold Lopez-Nussa from the album Un Dia Cualquira, 2018

Carlos at Dizzy’s

I first came across bass player Carlos Henriquez listening to his album Bronx Pyramid, which I had read about on the, which is where I also discovered the Rodrigues brother Michael and Robert. So when I read that Carlos had released an album centred on the music of Dizzy Gillespie that also featured Michael Rodriguez on trumpet I knew it would very quickly become a part of my jazz collection.

The album kicks off with “A Night in Tunisia” and the Afro-Cuban beat is there right from the start. Soloists Melissa Aldana, on tenor sax, and Michael Rodriguez make for a formidable front line with solid, superb backing from the rhythm section.

The first track runs for a little under nine minutes and I, for one, would have been happy if it had been extended as I am sure the audience at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, where the album was recorded, would have been too.

Michael Rodriguez again takes the trumpet solo on the second track “Groovin High”, which mixes Salsa and Afro-Cuban jazz to great effect. Anthony Almonte throws in some great vocals before things really kick off with track three, Bebop. This time Terrel Stafford takes the trumpet solo alongside saxophonist Melissa Aldana. The tempo is brisk but the notes crisp and clear and that Latin beat that drives through the piece makes for very enjoyable listening.

Dizzy Gillespie

All but two of the tracks on the album were written by Gillespie, “Tin Tin Deo” and “Trinidad, Goodbye” being the two exceptions. “Tin Tin Deo” is a well known tune that sounds like its been given a fresh coat of paint by Henriquez’s arrangement. “Trindad, Goodbye” is not so familiar a track to me, written Kenny Barron, but the musicianship, vocals, tempo and overall feel of the piece makes it a very fitting end to a terrific album – and I shall certainly to looking to find out more about Mellissa Aldana.

In the liner notes Carlos Henriquez writes:

I have arranged the Octet with an authentic rhythmic approach that Dizzy would have loved. We brought the sounds of modern Latin Jazz to the history that was bequeathed us

Carlos Henriquez: Dizzy Con Clave 201

Well I don’t think that Dizzy, who did after all initiate the Cubop era, would have disagreed with Carlos and that blend of the modern with the historical certainly works for me. Oh, and by the way, if you want to find out more about the Rodriguez brothers then find time to listen to their album Impromptu on Criss Cross Jazz

Louis who?

I recently picked up the album Here Comes Louis Smith on the Blue Note label. I did not do my usual thing of checking the album out first before ordering. I also had no idea who Louis Smith was (he died in 2016) or how I even came to be looking at the album in the first place. Having heard the album through a couple of times I have to ask: why I have I not heard of this trumpet player from Tennessee before?

Blue Note 52438

Here Comes Louis Smith was his debut album recorded in 1957 – it had originally been recorded for the Transition label but the company went out of business shortly afterwards and before the recording could be released in the spring of ’58. The album masters were acquired by Blue Note producer Alfred Lion. Louis had a stellar supporting group alongside him with Buckshot La Funke (Cannonball Adderley was signed to the Mercury label at the time so used a pseudonym) on alto sax. Duke Jordan and Tommy Flanagan shared piano duties with Doug Watkins on bass and drummer Art Taylor completing the rhythm section.

The album features four Louis Smith compositions and one tune each from Duke Pearson and Hoagy Carmichael. The Duke Pearson number, “Tribute to Brownie, opens the album with the drums of Art Taylor before Louis Smith comes in with a beautiful clear bop sound. If the opener does not grab your attention then go no further but, in my opinion, the rest of the album does not disappoint and is worthy of a hearing.

Of the four original compositions two are very well executed blues numbers: track 2 – “Brill’s Blues” and track 6 “Val’s Blues”. In fact track 2 features some really nice alto playing from Cannonball Adderley. Tracks 3 (“Ande”) and 5 (“South Side”) are good but it is “South Side” that stands out for me for both the group playing and the solo playing from Smith and Adderley. That leaves just one track to talk about, Hoagy Carmichaels “Star Dust”.

Carmichael wrote “Star Dust” in 1927 and it when on to become a standard that would be recorded by so many of the great and good in jazz music. On this version it is Smith’s solo trumpet work that stands out. The playing has a “haunting” quality to it that just makes everything around the listener disappear leaving only the sound of the trumpet to focus on.

[Those around Smith] make for a potent supporting cast, but the focus is mostly on the criminally obscure Louis Smith. After cutting his second Blue Note set and switching to teaching, Smith would not record again as a leader until 1978. All bop and ’50s jazz fans are strongly advised to pick up this CD ….

AllMusic Review by Scott Yano

As I wrote at the beginning of this piece, I have no idea how I came to be looking at this album in the first place but something must have prompted me to do so. I do have to agree with Mr Yano, Louis Smith is a “criminally obscure” artist whose music deserves to be played and heard.

Spanish hard bop anyone?

Oriol Vallès and Joan Casares appear to be the leaders of the quintet plus who produced an album in 2017 that goes by the title Smack 7 Dab, which can be found on the excellent Fresh Sound New Talent label. All the tracks on the album bar one are written by either Vallès or Casares, the final track is the exception with vocals written by Hugo Astudillo.

The group line up is: Oriol Vallès (trumpet), Joan Casares (drums), Lluc Casares (tenor sax), Joel González (piano), Pau Sala (bass). Guests: Perico Sambeat (alto sax on #3,4,6), Toni Belenguer (trombone on #3,4,6), Hugo Astudillo (vocals & alto sax on #9).

In the recording studio for Smack 7 Dab

Now to the album itself. For those who like to categorize their music I would put this album in the “contemporary mainstream” bracket. By that I mean that this album is, stylistically, firmly rooted in the bop, hard bop era of the forties and fifties but is by no means a modern copy of went before. The best example of what I am trying to say can be found on track three, “Raval Hip Attitude”, which has some fantastic trumpet playing on it, swings, introduces the alto sax of Perico Sambeat and the trombone of Toni Belenguer all underpinned by a good rhythm section.

Another great album from the Fresh Sound label

This is an album where all the musicians get a chance to shine without overstaying their welcome on any particular track. This album has barely left my CD player since getting it. It is writing and playing like this that gives me the pleasure that I only really find in jazz music. Even the final track, “Por Mi Fe Los Cuentos” (By My Faith the Tales), which features rap with a hip hop beat does not detract from the overall effect of the album due to the use of the trumpet, sax and keyboard supporting the drums of Joan Casares.

Fresh Sound New Talent does a terrific job of bringing new jazz talent to the fore (this is the label that gave us the superb saxophonist Sam Braysher) and the album Smack 7 Dab can be found at