It may come as a surprise to some to learn that Loose Tubes were a relatively short-lived formation functioning between 1984 and 1990 before splitting up and going separate ways. This new release both celebrates the classic years with nine tracks from a memorable live recording in 1990 at Ronnie Scotts and adds to it with an additional three pieces from a reformed band which also performed live at venerable London jazz institution as part of a BBC Radio 3 live jazz performance in 2014. Interestingly, while the dates are separated by some twenty-five years, they are remarkably similar in tone.
Compositionally, keyboardist Django Bates contributes five original pieces with other members of the band, weighing in with the other six. Loose Tubes have always championed the more left side of jazz with plenty of other influences tossed into the eclectic stew and for many this is part of their charm. The influence of 1970s fusion and Weather Report in particular is evident on an Eddie Parker composition, ‘Children’s Game’, with funky bass while Bates’ soloing takes on board the lineage of Joe Zawinul. There is a waltz-like feel on drums to the opener, ‘Armchair’, that showcases the fine clarinet work of Dai Pritchard and provides a tiny insight into how Steve Lacy might have sounded with a big band. Middle Eastern flavours permeate the slightly off beat ‘The wolf’s dream and the wild eye’ with interesting drum beats and brass band that have something of a New Orleans flavour. A more reposing piece, ‘A’ features Bates on acoustic piano and the orchestrations are straight out of the Gil Evans school with trumpet solo sounding like this is a Miles-Evans tribute of sorts. For the title track, the old school trombone solo, akin to a funeral march in New Orleans, contrasts with the modern drum beat. In general, the older pieces are more convincing than the later ones, but the near nine and a half minute staccato feel of ‘As I was saying’ stands out for its funky bras whereas ‘Creeper’ simply sounds out of synch and ‘Eden Express’ a little too speeded up for these ears. No Steve Argüelles is featured on any of the performances.
The re-assembled band will be performing at select venues in late September including an appearance at the Herefordshire Jazz Festival and a tenure at Ronnie Scott’s between 23 and 26 September. This excellent live recording merely serves to whet the appetite for those imminent performances and is dedicate to the memory of founding club co-owners Ronnie Scott and Pete King.