Trumpeter and drummer Andy Hague’s composing and arranging skills are a very badly kept secret in these parts, showcased as they are in his long standing quintet, occasional big band and a host of other fleeting projects. But it bears repeating (and broadcasting): skillful writing and arranging can define and meld a band together and that’s what Andy achieved again with this fantastic line-up (Andy on trumpet, Alan Barnes alto, Ben Waghorn tenor and rhythm section to die for of Scott Hammond, Thad Kelly and Jim Blomfield). Self deprecating, jokey titles and names are also a Hague stock in trade (I ‘m sure I’ve an album of his on my shelves called Portrait of the Artist as an old git!). This one told us to expect Art Blakey-like sounds and we were not disappointed, the jokiness belied the seriousness and respect that the band gave the material. Closely harmonised themes, catchy horn riffs behind solos, even a few shout choruses cueing up drum solos. It was great fun and the standards repertoire in the first set evoked some lovely controlled soloing all round, spiced up with the Alan Barnes stand up routine between tunes. The introduction of a few Hague originals and slightly unusual material (Freddie Hubbard’s Jodo for instance – a bit of a modal workout) seemed to light a bit of a fire under everyone and the blowing got more impassioned and the temperature in the room seemed to go up a few degrees during the second set. Alan Barnes really seemed to let go on Hands Up, a Hague penned New Orleans like shuffle – real hairs on the neck stuff. For me, the stand out moments were still some the more tender, beautifully arranged, statements of themes such as Corcovado in the second set, and the thoughtful fluent soloing it evoked. Apparently the project was conceived for the Swanage Jazz Festival in July, so the punters there are in for a treat if this gig was anything to go by.
Andy Hague’s Text Messengers, Be-Bop Club, Friday 7th May