The Jazz Rag Album Reviews

Jazz London Radio has teamed up with the excellent The Jazz Rag magazine to provide two CD reviews each month from their esteemed Reviewers.

Since 1987, The Jazz Rag magazine has been at the heart of the British jazz scene, published bi-monthly and containing news, reviews and features on both the rich history of jazz from across the globe, and exciting new album releases, tours and festivals. You can read the full magazine online and order paper copies at www.bigbearmusic.com/jazzrag and can also follow their Facebook page for updates on interesting jazz news and articles from their archive.

July Reviews

THE FRENCH PRESERVATION NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND

Alive and Kicking in Europe

Upbeat Jazz URCD 299D, 2 CDs, 76.00/76/00

Upbeat Records continue to keep alive the recordings of the late Big Bill Bissonnette’s Jazz Crusade label. This double CD first appeared 15 years ago as Jumpin’ at Irigny (where this live session was recorded in 2003) and the present re-naming seems rather odd in view of Big Bill’s passing two years ago. Bill and cornetist Fred Vigorito guest with the French Preservation New Orleans Jazz Band which consists of saxist Jean-Pierre Alessi and rhythm, thereby giving the lie to all those New Orleans ‘purists’ who think saxophones are the work of the devil. This is authentic New Orleans jazz and not a clarinet in sight, Alessi even doing the honours – very nicely, thank you – on Burgundy Street Blues.

Alessi is an interesting, uncomplicated player whose melody statements can have a four-square dance band feel before he boots into driving, rhythmic solos, often with more than a touch of rhythm and blues. The note refers to Emanuel Paul as his guru, but there are echoes of Captain John Handy, too. Fred Vigorito varies strong lead with delicate touches and freakish effects and Big Bill’s burry-toned tailgate has its sentimentally melodic moments. Henry Lemaire on banjo (habitues of Mike Durham’s Jazz Party know him as a bass player) and Joel Gregoriades on bass combine splendidly and, with drummer Clody Gratiot, really kick on in uptempo numbers such as Get Out of Here.

Like so many New Orleans bands the eclectic repertoire appeals. After a none too promising start with a raucous Washington & Lee Swing (banjo over-recorded, though generally the ‘live’ sound is pretty good) things settle nicely with an unexpectedly lively version of Brahms’ Cradle Song and a delightful Lavender Blue at that typical lilting slow-medium tempo. So we go on, old warhorses such as Bugle Boy March and Panama alongside obscurities (Love Songs of the Nile) and such swing era favourites as Moonglow and Marie which starts out as a ringing banjo solo before turning into an uninhibited romp.

RON SIMPSON

June Reviews

FRED HUNT

BLUES ‘N’ BOOGIE

Lake Records LACD361 72.34

These re-mastered recordings released by Paul Adams on his prestigious Lake Records label reveal the artistry and rich diversity of one of Britain’s finest jazz pianists. Self taught and stylistically influenced by American stride pianist Donald Lambert, Fred Hunt is featured here in live performance with Mike Bracewell on drums, who recorded the proceedings on his portable tape recorder.

The year is 1979, Bracewell tells us in his informative sleeve notes; the setting is a northern hotel where a crowded, smoke-tinged room holds a well-worn piano. Most of us can relate to this and much of the lively atmosphere is retained as Hunt treats his audience to a veritable masterclass of styles and genres. A stirring St. Louis Blues heralds a rich tapestry of familiar titles from the Glenn Miller and Ellington catalogues; thoughtful readings of show stoppers As Time Goes By, Sweet Lorraine and Send In The Clowns and inspired themes associated with Yesterdays and Autumn Leaves.

Two Gershwin tributes Lady Be Good & The Man I Love with their seamless changes and rhythms are tremendous and Hunt closes on a high with an impressive interpretation of Elegie by French composer Jules Massenet.

Fred Hunt rose to prominence through his long association with the Alex Welsh Band. The bonus track Davenport Blues was recorded by Allan Gilmore at The Dancing Slipper, Nottingham in 1968 and features Hunt in duo with the maestro himself. The overall performance is stunning. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to either artist.

VAL WISEMAN

SINNE EEG & THE DANISH RADIO BIG BAND 

WE’VE JUST BEGUN

Stunt Records STUCD 19132 51:43

Sinne Eeg has released a string of critically acclaimed albums, winning numerous awards along the way. The Danish Radio Big Band joined Eeg in the studio over four days at the end of January 2019 to record We’ve Just Begun and the finished product is destined to further enhance Eeg’s reputation as one of the finest vocalists of her generation. 

Five of the album’s ten tracks were written or co-written by Eeg and lose little by comparison with a selection of jazz standards including My Favorite Things, Detour Ahead and Comes Love. Instrumental soloists are indicated in the liner notes (including Gerard Presencer, flugelhorn on To a New Day), the contributions are never less than immaculate and often commendably brief.      

Eeg possesses an enviable, pitch-perfect, vocal range. The Danish Radio Big Band, conducted by Nikolai Bøgelund, is on top of the material throughout and Ms Eeg couldn’t wish for a better backing band. The title track opens the album and within a few bars it is evident that Egg is a commanding presence not in the least intimidated by the latent power of Denmark’s premier big band.

Hans Ulrik’s tenor saxophone solo lays down a marker and all subsequent soloists – including Henrik Gunde, piano on Like a Song, Per Gade, guitar on Talking to Myself, Frederik Menzies, tenor sax on My Favorite Things, and Peter Fuglsang, clarinet on Comes Love – step up to the mark. We’ve Just Begun is an exceptionally good recording and should be considered one of 2020’s essential purchases.

RUSSELL CORBETT