Steeplechase Jam Session, Vol. 4

COMPOSERS: Ingrid Jensen
LABELS: SteepleChase
ALBUM TITLE: Various
PERFORMER: Ingrid Jensen (t), Sam Newsome (ss), Mark Turner (ts), George Colligan (p), Johannes Weidenmüller (b), Jochen Rückert (d)
CATALOGUE NO: SCCD 31527 (distr. Discovery)

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Steeplechase boss Nils Winther has been stockpiling studio ‘jam session’ tapes for several years, and he’s now embarked on a 20-disc programme of releases. Of the first four, this might well be the most interesting. It’s hardly in the brawn-over-brain mould which is often the familiar tack of such situations: not surprising, considering that this is a thinking band of players not much given to rhetoric or filibustering.

The front line pits three strikingly individual voices against each other in a kind of friendly combat, while Colligan calls the tunes and masterminds from the piano. Gary Thomas’s theme ‘A Brilliant Madness’ suits the group beautifully, and it’s fascinating to hear this piece and Kenny Garrett’s ‘Four Openers’ alongside a more obvious jam-session call such as ‘Invitation’.

Jensen’s lean, thoughtful playing goes well with the agility of Mark Turner, who has developed into one of the most individual saxophone minds of today. This 1997 workout catches Turner at a crucial point, and it was shrewd of Colligan to put the tenorman to work on two Wayne Shorter tunes, ‘Chief Crazy Horse’ and ‘Ju Ju’: Turner sounds nothing like the composer, but he’s just as distinctive.

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By comparison, Newsome is more given to bluster, but this is an altogether remarkable grouping and it’s fortunate that Winther retained this snapshot. Amusing also to find Sir William’s lovely ballad ‘Touch Her Soft Lips And Part’ credited to Walt Walton! Richard Cook