In one sense this is, to misquote The League Of Gentlemen: “local music for local folk”. It’s there in the band name and the album title. But this is also music universal in its jazz appeal, so everywhere is within walking distance, everywhere is the neighbourhood.
Walking Distance is a four-way co-operative operation from Caleb Curtis on alto saxophone, Kenny Pexton on tenor saxophone, Adam Coté on double bass and Shawn Baltazor on drums. Nine of the 11 tunes are by Curtis, one is by Pexton and the other is Lerner and Loewe’s I Could Have Danced All Night.
It’s always a good way into group new to the ears to see what they do with a standard. I Could Have… starts with a slow, drily reharmonised saxes and bass reading of the verse, before Baltazor gets all of a paradiddle and the band alternates tongue-in-cheek, heavily-accented slow waltz time and faster, hard swing, for the chorus and solos. There is an element of Django Bates/Frank Zappa feel to the undermining of the schmaltz while still maintaining an element of affection for the original.
Walking Distance has a wide range of attack throughout the album. The four can play freeish and “outside” when they want to, and can also remind me of the classic cool of the Baker/Mulligan pianoless quartet at certain moments. Which is not to detract from the fact that mostly one is reminded of nobody else and just enjoying a modern acoustic jazz quartet with large ears and big chops having a grand time together.
April 10th has fat, lush harmonies, Dewey Circle is a great, shadowing, twin-sax bop scurry, the title track is 26 seconds of mayhem, and Willoughby Greene adds a soulful groove, a very impressive bass solo, and some friends in the form of two trumpets, two trombones and a tuba for a grand finale.
One of the most freshly appealing albums I have heard in a long time from a band to look out for, especially if they come to the UK to play live.
Categories: CD review