CD reviews in brief: Andy Hague, Ben Powell, The Remote Viewers

Reviewed by JJ Wheeler

Andy Hague
Cross My Palm

Bristolian trumpeter Andy Hague is completely unapologetic about his enthusiasm for American Jazz and he obviously takes great delight in replicating all that is good about certain idols of the last 60 or 70 years. With most tracks written as an open homage to various legends old and not-so-old, at least we know he’s working with formulas that work.

And work they do. There’s a nod to Horace Silver, Dave Douglas, Brecker Brothers, Kenny Wheeler (OK, an exception to the “American” rule), Wynton Marsalis and Kenny Dorham. But it’s not all licks and cliches – in fact I find the soloing on this record remarkably tasteful.

Hague has a lovely horn sound, too, which works well with guest singer Brigitte Beraha whose appearance on Tranquil Moment is a particular highlight.

Ben Powell
New Street
(Ben Powell)

Cheltenham violinist now working out of the States accompanied by swinging rhythm section plays bop-ish tunes, obviously well-versed in the tradition of his instrument’s place in jazz. Second half of the disc features a tribute to Stephane Grappelli.

So – what’s new? To my ears, not much. There’s even the obligatory What Is This Thing Called Love (if you’re going to play this tune, please do something interesting with it).

One saving grace is that Powell changes the instrumentation for the Grappelli tribute tunes, which feature Gary Burton and Julian Lage (nice pull) on vibes and guitar. And this is clever – it stops things getting stale, which it would’ve done otherwise.

It’s all nicely polished and often quite relaxing. I’d imagine Starbucks wouldn’t mind playing this as background music in their shops. But it’s not going to set the world alight.

The Remote Viewers
City Of Nets
(The Remote Viewers)

Apparently originally a quirky saxophone trio, over the years The Remote Viewers have morphed into a larger ensemble – mainly sax quartet plus keys/percussion and bass/cello. Obviously propelled by bassist John Edwards’ input (including some really successful use of drum programming), there’s a great deal of quirky, more avante-garde improv-associated sounds, but I think this is quite a highly structured and mapped-out work.

There’s so much space between each timbre, nothing seems to muddy the waters, which is very clever. The result is a set of pieces where everything works in conjunction with each other to create the whole, often grooving at various paces. Textures slide in and out, but you can definitely hear it all with enough careful attention.

This is fresh, exciting and certainly something for anyone looking for musical pastures new. It’s also the first time I’ve heard The Remote Viewers, and I’m inclined to check out their back catalogue (about ten records or so) very soon.

Categories: CD review

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