COMPOSERS: Dick Heckstall-Smith
LABELS: 33 Records
WORKS: Celtic Steppes
PERFORMER: Dick Heckstall-Smith (ts, ss) with big band – Claude Deppa, Kevin Robinson, Derek Wadsworth, Roy Wordsworth, Richard Henry, Lee Goodall, Ray Warleigh, Don Weller, Theo Travis, Ed Jones, John O’Neill, Dave Moore, Lucky Ranku, Dylan Fowler, Laurence Cottle,
CATALOGUE NO: 33JAZZ 027
Dick Heckstall-Smith is probably still most frequently celebrated as a pioneering commuter between jazz and blues, cutting his teeth as he did in such bands as the Graham Bond Organisation and Colosseum, but this album triumphantly reveals his other side: the skilful, eclectic composer. Other recent albums, notably 1990’s Woza Nasu, have showcased his talent in frustratingly brief glimpses; this seamless, through-composed piece revealsit in all its considerable glory. The stellar UK band, formed from a sensible mixture of young lions and experienced old hands, takes a lively but plangent Heckstall-Smith theme imbued with a peculiarly Celtic mix of stridency and melancholy. This theme is subjected to, in turn, a folk-based runthrough culminating in a skirl of bagpipes, a rousing big-band swing treatment involving an exhilarating trumpet/flugelhorn chase and, finally, after a wonderfully querulous tenor solo, a finale packed with squirting funk and bubbling percussion.
Joyous and celebratory, yet intelligent and considered, this is a highlight of an already distinguished career. Chris Parker