More than once, listening to this album by Andy Hague’s quintet, I reached for the album sleeve thinking I was listening to a revived and re-worked classic only to find it was an Andy original. The CD cover’s elegant art work might suggest the album is all about the trumpet, and in his notes Andy cites a few exponents as inspiration (Kenny Wheeler, Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Dorham , Dave Douglas) but I think it might be his pen that’s the star turn. This is a great set of tunes that repay a few listens; there are subtle dodges and swerves as well as the immediate attractiveness of the themes and arrangements. This top quality band negotiate the corners and quirks effortlessly making it all sound easy and natural. Blues and gospel inflected themes with neat arrangements are a distinct thread. Andy makes no bones of his love for the great pioneers of the ‘ Hard Bop’ style of jazz, running a Horace Silver tribute band Silverado and another, the Text Messangers, with more than a nod to the great Art Blakey. This collection updates that tradition and draws on wider range of inspirations . The opener Drip Drop has one of those Bluesy melodic lines with off beat phrases in the theme over a swing feel with a snappy back beat; not Hard Bop or Hip Hop but maybe Hip Bop? (Ok, I’ve used that one before; Joshua Redman seems a great exponent of this as well). It certainly sets the band up for some great playing. If I’d been in a club listening, the beautifully judged, staccato phrase with which Ben Waghorn launches his solo would have had me whooping. Darkness has a slow moving theme over a rolling vamp, the harmonised horns immediately evocative of a Kenny Wheeler ensemble, the reference strengthened by some melodic squeals from Andy on the repeating end section that really builds the emotional intensity. Green Leaf gives the vibe another twist with a Dave Douglas inspired sound to theme, more contemporary but still drawing a fiery inventive solo from Jake McMurchie on tenor for one of his two guest appearances. There’s a real energy about the playing throughout with the recording capturing a very live sound to the band (two of the tunes are literally recorded live at the Be-Bop club). In amongst all that energy and excitement, the tune that produced some of the most affecting playing and soloing for me was Tranquil Moment, another piece that had me convinced it was an undiscovered classic this time by Jobim. Brigitte Beraha guesting on vocals set the scene for lyrical yearning solos from Jim Blomfield on piano and Andy on one take, and Ben Waghorn’s tenor on a second ‘Radio Edit’ to end the album. This is another fine session from the vibrant Bristol scene that should be heard by a much wider audience.
CD: Cross My Palm, Andy Hague