20th Nov2012

Harold McNair ‘Harold McNair’/’Flute-Nut’ (Vocalion) 4/5

by ukvibe

White Jamaican multi-reedist Harold McNair was one of the post-WWII migrants to settle in the UK and soon made a reputation for himself. These two LPs handily placed onto one CD date from 1968 and 1969 respectively when McNair was at the peak of his powers, just reaching thirty years of age. The first album is the more straight ahead with McNair’s love of bop self-evident. That is not to say that he has forsaken his Caribbean roots, though. Far from it as the opener ‘Indecision’ hints at with its mento flavours and fine polyrhythms from drummer Tony Carr, and the rest of the rhythm section in fine form. An album highlight is the mid-tempos groove on the flute-led ‘The cottage’. For jazz dance fans, the jewel in the crown is of course the fabulous piece ‘The hipster’ that has graced many a compilation. The instantly recognisable piano vamp and flute work à la Roland Kirk (surely a major influence on Mc Nair’s playing) is impressive to say the least. Elsewhere the US songbook standard ‘Secret love’ is reworked as a busy uptempo piece with lovely floating bassline and minimalist piano accompaniment while be-bop hues with McNair on tenor saxophone can be heard on ‘On a clear day you can see forever’. The second album is just as tasty, but with a larger big band accompaniment. These are used to perfection on the dynamic flute-led ‘The umbrella man’ while even faster paced is a terrific take on ‘The night has a thousand eyes’. Latin and Caribbean rhythms surface on ‘Nomadic Joe’. All in all a fine way to be introduced to one of Jamaican and UK jazz’s finest kept secrets. Tim Stenhouse

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