Spirits of Congo Square

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Candid
PERFORMER: Donald Harrison Jnr (as), Nicholas Payton, Marlon Jordan, Jamil Sharif (t), Delfeayo Marsalis (tb), Louis Ford (c), Victor Goines (ts), Peter Martin (p), Elton Heron (b), Adonis Rose (d), John O’Neal (vc)
CATALOGUE NO: CCD 79759

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New Orleans was the crucible from which jazz came and even though the city itself is more like a theme park today, it continues to provide fine jazz musicians. All the young players in this big band are New Orleanians who have mostly left the Big Easy for work on the international stage.

Perhaps as a result this project, put together by leader/arranger Donald Harrison, is not as ‘traditional’ as its name suggests. Sure, there are three trad standards on the programme, but the remainder is better described as bebop-with-a-backbeat; the spirits of Congo Square mixing freely with Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard and Monk.

Indeed, there’s little interweaving of frontline melodies and although there is some ensemble-playing in there, the arrangements are spacious and well delineated. The overall sound is actually rather polite.

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The lack of heat does mean, however, that the ear can concentrate on the superb playing of soloists Nicholas Payton, Marlon Jordan and Victor Goines. Garry Booth