COMPOSERS: Jay Phelps
PERFORMER: Jay Phelps (trumpet), Shabaka Hutchings (sax), Jonathan Gee (piano), Karl Rasheed-Abel (drums), Michael Mwenso (vocals)
CATALOGUE NO: SPEC 012
There’s a retro feel about Jay Walkin’, from its catchily-named title to the Edward Hopper-era American diner on its cover. And this fits with the London-based trumpeter’s choice of repertoire – a refreshing mix of straight-ahead and bebop-tinged jazz.
Phelps is a player at the forefront of the UK’s jazz scene, whether as part of Courtney Pine’s Afropeans or as a founding member of Empirical. And, working alongside vocalist Michael Mwenso, he’s used performance to educate audiences about jazz history.
This sharp awareness of the past shows throughout from its jaunty title track – that could be a rediscovered ’60s TV theme – to Mwenso’s jazz-scat invitation to ‘Get Happy’. Fortunately the strings on Basie’s ‘Blue and Sentimental’ manage to steer clear of being on the ‘Sentimental’ side.
There’s some free jazz interludes, where Phelps could perhaps hang up an ‘out to lunch’ sign in his diner. And this all makes for a highly accomplished solo debut. Neil McKim