CD Reviews

THE MAGNIFICENT 7 JAZZ BAND

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

 

Irthling Records: IRMAG7001

Recorded at Bayford Studios, 4-5 November, 2013

Total playing time: 60m 40s

 Magnificent 7 Theme; Dippermouth Blues; Midnight In Moscow; Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby; Avalon; Benny’s From Heaven; Brasileirinho; In A Persian Market; Creole Love Call; Minute Waltz; So Do I; Serenade In Blue; Mona Lisa; Chimes Blues; Ice Cream

 

Amy Roberts (flute, clarinet, alto sax), Richard Exall (clarinet, alto and tenor saxes, vocals, arranger), Ben Cummings (trumpet, vocals), Ian Bateman (trombone), Craig Milverton (piano), Bill Coleman (bass), Nick Millward (drums, vocals)

Magnificent! That’s the first word that comes to my mind. Here we have a group of young (well, younger than yer average!) jazz musicians who are willing (and able!) to move the goalposts a bit, and play fresh exciting Traditional jazz with verve and enthusiasm seldom heard since early Barber, Ball and Bilk. The band, co-led by Richard Exall and Amy Roberts, comprises recent and current alumni of these 3Bs.

This is acknowledged by the inclusion in the band’s debut album of such numbers as In A Persian Market, Midnight In Moscow, and Ice Cream – all played, of course, in their own inimitable style! Impossible (for me) to pigeonhole this style: an eclectic adventurous mix of street beat and ‘normal’ beat – slow, medium, fast – vibrant New Orleans jazz with a large pinch of Latin ‘spice’ thrown in for good measure?

You will all be familiar with the band members: where they come from, and how they like their curries, so I will dispense with the details. Suffice to say, a formidable aggregation of professional jazz musicians!

The more I listen to this CD the more I love it. Starting off with a very slick rendition of Magnificent 7 Theme, one’s attention is grabbed immediately. Straight into Dippermouth Blues – no prisoners – great ensemble, swashbuckling solos from Exall, Cummings and Bateman, followed by really nice light and shade; then wham! – out with a bang. Great stuff!

Avalon: having played this number as a banjo feature in the bands of Max Collie and Phil Mason probably upwards of five thousand times, the very name sends shudders through my frail body. However, since hearing it on this CD, I am pleased to announce that, finally, the ‘Curse of Avalon’ has been removed. For me, the CD would be worth buying for this number alone. A melting pot of Latino/funky spicy rhythms and classy arrangements, great solo work, especially (in my humble opinion) Milverton. When listening to this tune (over… and over…and over…) I could easily imagine myself sitting back comfortably in Rick’s Bar, Casablanca, quaffing the occasional large dark rum (or two), puffing on a fine Havana cigar…

Moving on…a really bright Brasileirinho features great Samba-like cross-rhythms, with fantastic bass from Coleman. A few minutes later we have the Minute Waltz (by Chopin), proving the old adage, “It ain’t what you play, it’s the way that you play it!” A ‘classical’ feel to start with, then great swinging improvisation, together with stunning clarinet/flute from Richard and Amy (respectively), then back to ‘classical’, taken out with a super Big Band ‘cadenza’ type of thing…also, I must compliment Nick Millward on his tight, unflinching, swinging brushwork.

Throughout all, the rhythm section is “top banana” (as that great trombonist, Bob Hunt, would say). Every number has a different feel, tempo – and all that stuff – and it all swings…Great sound and balance, produced by Peter Rudeforth (trumpet player with, among others, the Big Chris Barber Band). Well done, chaps – now back to the stars of the show…(only joking!).

Next up, a fine rendition of So Do I: superb hot trumpet from Cummings. I always remember Kenny Ball ranting at me, “Heat – jazz must have heat!!” There is certainly no shortage of heat in Ben’s playing. He also gives a good powerful lead throughout the whole of the recording, which is so nice to hear. Great singer, too!

And then Serenade In Blue, with beautiful harmonies and solos, so wonderfully laid-back it isn’t true…

Mona Lisa is played (for me) at the perfect tempo. (Brian White once told me, “That was great – going nowhere in a hurry.”) Good vocal from Richard and great tenor sax from Exall! Also a fabulous solo from Ian Bateman. Look out for an exciting new take on the chimes in Chimes Blues, with a superb ‘slidy’ bass solo from Bill Coleman.

The CD signs off with that old warhorse Ice Cream, but old warhorse it ain’t. A fantastic street beat, funky underpinning bass, haunting piano from Craig (not to mention his solo). A fabulous drum solo from Mr. Millward, some rousing ensemble, a nice key change, then back to the street beat, fading into the distant sunset. Then what? Play it again Amy!!

This CD has everything. Musicianship, good vocals, great trumpet lead, good ensemble, classy arrangements, humour, swing, and, most of all, such a refreshing feel about it. Given a little help from the Media (therein lies a problem!), I honestly believe this band could be well-instrumental in kick-starting our slightly ailing Traditional jazz scene. Perhaps more important, I’m certain that the youngsters would also love the band.

As Jackie Flavelle states in his sleeve notes: Quite simply The Magnificent 7 Jazz Band truly are magnificent!

I urge you, get hold of this CD.

To purchase, please go to: www.amyrobertsjazz.co.uk or www.bookajazzband.com/mag7.html

On the latter, go to ‘Artists’, down to Magnificent 7 Jazz Band and click on NEW ALBUM – THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, or maybe catch Amy Roberts/Richard Exall at one of their gigs.

Jim McIntosh