Watching Dave O’Higgins on tenor and Gareth Lockrane on flute trading phrases over a bouncing, hard bop groove is a great climax to a gig. That was my reward in early June when I found myself in London serendipitously on the night bass player Dominic Howles was launching not one, but two CDs at the Spice of Life, just round the corner from Ronnie Scott’s in Soho. He’d taken the opportunity to assemble the septet that had recorded his album Bristolian Thoroughfare released last year (reviewed here) to play the first set before playing the material from the freshly minted Radio Cannonball in the second with mainly a quartet (apart from that rousing finale when O’Higgins made five). Nick Tomalin on piano and an urgent, bustling Matt Fishwick on drums completed the quartet with Howles and Lockrane. The CD, with the same line-up, does what is says on the dial and draws inspiration from Cannonball Adderly’s late sixties quintets and quartets. There’s no alto-sax on the album, the lead voice instead provided by Gareth Lochrane and he digs into the swinging and attractive themes. Radio Cannonball’s pulsing riff and bluesy hooks catch the ear straight away, Song for Suzanne has a relaxed latin vibe and more reflective mood. Once in Lifetime retains the choppy catchy-ness of the Talking Heads original whilst giving Tomalin and Lochrane space to stretch out over the metronomic pulse. Like Bristolian Thoroughfare, there’s no mistaking the leader’s love of the grooving visceral swing of the sixties heyday of Adderley and others. The music’s also a vehicle for very personal inspirations with dedications to family. The closer, Anna’s Dance is for Howles’ daughter and the apparent commission of groove tune is more than fulfilled, the grin on everyone’s faces as O’Higgins and Lockrane raised the temperature to bring the launch gig to an end was confirmation of that. An album well worth tuning on too and a live act well worth catching.
June Highlights (part 1): Dominic Howles, Radio Cannonball CD and launch gig