The Lewis Express ‘The Lewis Express’ LP/CD/DIG (ATA) 3/5

Primarily based in Leeds, The Lewis Express is comprised of many of the musicians that have graced previous ATA releases: George Cooper, piano, Neil Innes, bass, Sam Hobbs, drums and Pete Williams, percussion. Taking inspiration from the likes of Ramsey Lewis, Young-Holt, Eddie Cano and Cannonball Adderley, they present their own take on the rich jazz-soul outfits of the 60’s, bringing their own European flavour to the proceedings.

As with many of the classic Ramsey Lewis cuts (from who this group take their name) this album was recorded live, attempting to capture the rich inter-relationship between the players and an old-school ambience that harks back to the day when classic soul jazz outfits were first hitting the streets.

Of the seven tunes, I particularly enjoyed the late-night swing of “Cancao De Momento” with its energy and uplifting Brazilian tinged vibe, the deep bluesy feel of “Last Man In The Chain Gang” which is perhaps the strongest track of the session, and the one vocal track of the album, “Straight Seven Strut”, with its French words giving a nod to 60’s ye-ye music with the injection of a jazzy backbone and percussive handclaps all smouldering from the melting pot of musical styles.

Whilst the thick, juicy, on-point grooves created by this band are never in doubt, for me it just lacks a certain spark. The compositions are strong, the musicianship mighty fine, but I can’t help feeling they are still searching for their own voice. This is a solid debut from The Lewis Express, but one that doesn’t reach out and grab me as something to get excited about. Not quite the finished article, more a work in progress that intrigues me as to what might come in the future from the band.

Mike Gates