Jessica Radcliffe ‘Remembrance’ CD (Ubuntu Music) 3/5

Another example of the burgeoning British jazz scene, composer and vocalist Jessica Radcliffe has a debut album that reveals a musician who is rapidly accumulating a multitude of musical experiences that bodes well for the future. Essentially a singer-songwriter, those twin skills will prove to be a major asset in the long-term, but on this specific and indeed ambitious project, Jessica Radcliffe devotes her attentions to an evocation and remembrance of the impact of World War One and how this transcends boundaries and definitions. Recently involved in a separate, New York based, ‘Miles Ahead’ project that featured Michelle Hendricks, vocalist and daughter of John, Anita Wardell and Kevin Burke Fitzgerald, Radcliffe on this new recording has composed all but two numbers. The line up varies and starts off intimately in the intro with just the piano of Sam James and the leader’s vocals on ‘Remembrance’ before the piano trio plus trumpet of Tom Dennis enter collectively, and then a fine tenor saxophone solo from Mark Lockheart. Radcliffe’s soft delivery veers more to songbook territory than strictly speaking jazz, but impresses nonetheless on ‘There’s A Long, Long Trial’, and is smooth in tone. A spoken intro on, ‘Jack-Jack’, is accompanied by both piano and clarinet, while one of a series of ballads include ‘Little Boy Lost’.

If one criticism could be levelled at this early point in her career, it is that Radcliffe would be well served varying the tempo of the self-penned repertoire more, especially when she is surrounded by such talented musicians. The five piece band that includes special guest and multi-reedist Mark Lockheart, debuted the album at the Pizza Express in London in early December and will be touring nationally throughout the month of March in the UK.

Tim Stenhouse