Alan Skidmore

COMPOSERS: Alan Skidmore
LABELS: Miles Music
WORKS: After the Rain
PERFORMER: Alan Skidmore (ts); NDR PO/Palle Mikkelborg; Colin Towns’s Mask Symphonic
CATALOGUE NO: MM CD 084
At 35 years old, Dave Douglas, who has a long list of credits as a sideman and bandleader, is not only a magnificent trumpet player but also a visionary who seems capable of creating his own musical world. He composed all nine pieces on this superb album, and his writing deploys the quartet so skilfully that we hardly notice the absence of a chordal instrument. His compositions develop organically, and each piece has its own unique structure. Douglas has a beautiful and expressive trumpet sound, much technique in reserve, an excellent range and his every note and phrase seems felt and meant. Saxophonist Potter has similar qualities, and both men are at ease with almost any area of jazz. Fired by the excellent rhythm section, their solos are always compelling and appropriate to each piece – dynamic and lyrical in the title track, riotous yet controlled in the Colemanesque ‘Padded Cell’. The ballad ‘Kisangani’ has Douglas using the harmon mute with brooding intensity and Potter playing ineffably tender counter lines. There is not one weak moment in this muscular and absorbing album which runs the gamut of the emotions.

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Alan Skidmore’s playing in After the Rain is a miracle of sustained poise, inspiration and feeling. The 13 ballads include three by Coltrane, one by Ellington, one by Benny Golson, and the rest are all well known standards. Eight pieces were arranged by Colin Towns, and the other five were by one or other of the two German staff arrangers. Skidmore’s huge and mellow tenor sax sound in the lower register and his control of the quiet singing tone in the often extreme upper register are juxtaposed to great effect in his superb rendering of melody in ‘Too Young to Go Steady’ and in his ensuing solo. His love for each piece shines through and while his main improvised phrases seem passionately sculpted, his quiet asides or after-thoughts have an extraordinary potency. His rendition of Golson’s ‘I Remember Clifford’ consists mainly of his playing the melody, and his only solo is a final unaccompanied cadenza. This is an exquisite album.