Bridging the Gap

COMPOSERS: Allen Beechey
LABELS: Lake
ALBUM TITLE: Allen Beechey’s Bright Stars of Jazz
PERFORMER: Allen Beechey (c), Graham Hughes (tb), Jason Downes (cl, as), George Fagg (p), Andrew Ruiz-Palma (g), Heather Birt (b), Dominic Coles (d), Tamsin West (v)
CATALOGUE NO: LACD 169

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No, you won’t recognise the names, and maybe ‘Bright Young Things’ would have been more appropriate – they’re hardly stars yet. But this is the New Wave of British Trad, even if you haven’t heard of it before.

Beechey’s group plays tough and sweet in the Chicagoan manner, and just like a vintage Eddie Condon outfit they can get a roistering result out of unlikely old tunes such as ‘Easter Parade’ and ‘Carioca’. If the British manner with this kind of jazz has often stumbled due to shambolic ensemble playing or excessive politeness, the Bright Stars breeze past those difficulties, abetted by an unusually clear and faithful studio mix.

Beechey and Hughes are soloists who like to get the brassiest rip they can out of their horns, and if Downes is a tad more circumspect, he does very well with the clarinet setpiece of ‘Eccentric Rag’. Waldteufel’s Skater’s Waltz is one of those daft ideas that is a staple part of trad history, yet they manage it handsomely.

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Tamsin West strolls on for three vocals and makes an adorable beanfeast out of ‘Jazz Me Blues’. One could grumble a bit about a rhythm section that has drummer Coles ticking off the time when the front line could easily stand a more booting approach, but in the end this feels like a minor quibble. Catch the new Dixieland while it’s hot. Richard Cook