With Bristol’s Jazz and Blues Festival coming up next weekend, now seems a good time for a few words about this album, released by Bristol jazz stalwart Andy Hague late in 2018. It must be 25 years now, that Andy has been appearing in bands around Bristol that feature Jim Blomfield on piano and Ben Waghorn on saxes, and they’ve been a fixture as the core of Andy Hague Quintets for a big chunk of that time. The latest iteration of the rhythm section has Mark Whitlam on drums and Chris Jones on bass. All these players are sufficiently in demand to make you wonder how Andy found two consecutive days in their diaries to record this album. If you get hold of it (heartily recommended), you ‘ll be glad he did.
There are a lot of great moments in the set of ten Hague originals. If you popped on Abraham as a taster, you could be forgiven for wondering if you’d clicked on a Blue Note classic by mistake. The trumpet spells out the theme’s simple, blues tinged phrases, and it’s given legs by a propulsive swinging pulse. Waghorn’s solo can’t fail to stir the blood, dizzying runs, worming their way through the changes and then bursting into arcing phrases. Blomfield matches him for pyrotechnics and energy that build to cascading bluesy licks. It’s quintessential Hague Quintet and they are on great form, Whitlam and Jones a formidable engine room.
If their roots are in fiercely swinging, bop flavoured music, there’s always a bit more with this band, the writing covers a lot of bases and it’s always pitched just right; engaging with a twist, and a sophistication that’s lightly worn. Great Minds has a snappy piano figure that grabs the attention, a riffing theme, and a groove that seems to have layers of rhythm in it. Blomfield uncorks a volcanic solo, jumping between the layers, often one deployed in each hand. It’s an exhilarating ride.
And there’s more. Coming of Age and Conflict Resolution are rocky ballads with evocative playing all round, Stepping Down a burning post bop work out on a Giant Steps like sequence. This is a really fine album, and has deservedly been garnering plaudits and airplay elsewhere. This band will be pleasing crowds wherever they go.
Andy has put together a band for the jazz festival that are performing Kind of Blue details here . That band features Jim Blomfield
Jim’s trio are appearing on the free stage on Sunday afternoon, launching his new album