I remember a program about jazz which was presented by my favourite of the two Marsalis brothers, Branford. In it, he looked at how jazz music has permeated most parts of the world and he made what I thought was an over simplistic statement and said that ‘real’ jazz was only written and played by American musicians – or words to that effect. This made my blood boil a little because for one I am British and I love jazz music and whilst we Brits may not boast a Duke Ellington, Monk, a Davis or Coltrane, we do produce some fine musicians that make some wonderful music.
Here we have a collection of nine songs that sounds as British as bangers n’ mash. The group/ensemble (whichever way they want to be considered) are collectively called Scrapbook and is led (if you had to name names) by pianist and man behind all of the compositions, Angus Bayley. The rest of the ensemble comprises:
Bass: Paul Trippett
Drums: Dave Hamblett
Violin: Nick Sigsworth
Viola: Daisy Watkins
Trumpet: Alaric Taylor
Trombone: Kieran McLeod
And what a sound they make! The two horns and two string instruments take this from mere acoustic jazz to something that is minorly symphonic. (P.S. the squiggly line underneath the word ‘minorly’ tells me it’s not a real word but I’m leaving it in any way…)
From the very start, with ‘Alex’s Song’ (co-written with Alex Chilton), the listener is embraced and bathed in a warm and subtle jazz waltz-like sound with the first bars of the melodic piano, to the horns stating the theme and the violin and viola reassuring the us that this will be a delightful experience. It was.
‘Henno’ is up next and begins with Angus setting the moment with a gospel sounding intro before being joined by the strings and then the rest of the instruments. This one is slightly more complex in composition than the first track with everyone playing to a nicely paced climax 2mins in before the violin and viola usher in a beautifully layered, but short, piano solo and a short and almost restrained solo from the trumpet. Another very listenable piece that almost puts me in mind of composers such as Mike Westbrook and Mike Gibbs.
‘Triads’ begins with piano and trumpet, then not too long in comes the strings to accompany. What a majestic sound they all produce together. Although this begins almost symphonically, it is a jazz piece and trombonist Kieran McLeod acquits himself well with a tasty solo – pure heaven.
‘Wrioter’ is a sparse arrangement, almost improvisational in feel but no less worthy than what we have listened to before.
I could go on and on about each track here but to me there isn’t really a bad piece of music on this release. Having said that, ‘My First Friends’ is another standout with the piano sounding decidedly Mehldau-esque and Dave Hamblett’s drums adding a percussive flair to the whole proceedings.
These seven musicians simply make wonderful gentle meaningful, (almost) elegiac music together. They don’t get in each other’s way musically and with the benefit of such insightful and thoughtful writing, the resulting sum is definitely greater than its component parts. Beautiful.
Look out for the band at these venues soon: