This release may be a surprise to some who associate Auger, quite correctly, with the rock music and performing pyrotechnics seated at the Hammond organ. During an illustrious career he has worked with the likes of Rod Stewart, Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin and Led Zeppelin. An early claim to fame is that he played on ‘For Your Love’ by The Yardbirds. That was in 1965. A little later he formed Brian Auger and the Trinity. His duet with Julie Driscoll on Bob Dylan’s ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’ reached number 5 on the UK Singles chart in 1965. Their joint album billed as Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity reached number 12 in the UK Albums Chart in the same year.
In 1970 Auger moved into the area of jazz fusion forming Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. Much more has happened in the intervening years, in fact, too much to detail here.
So, with a background favouring rock, R&B and soul music, why should he now release a jazz trio album? Well, it’s not so unexpected as one might think. Auger began to hear jazz from an early age by way of the American Armed Forces Network and an older brother’s record collection. By his teens he was playing piano in clubs and by 1962 had formed the Brian Auger Trio with Rick Laird on bass and Phil Kinorra on drums, both of whom were later to join him in the Trinity. In 1964 he won first place in the categories of “New Star” and “Jazz Piano” in a reader’s poll in the Melody Maker music paper. He was even house pianist for a time at the original Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Gerrard Street. So his jazz credentials are clear to see.
Now the title of this new album becomes clear in that Auger’s career has indeed gone full circle. Auger plays a Steinway Grand Piano throughout with his son, Karma, behind the drums and Dan Lutz on both double bass and electric bass guitar. The set list is pleasantly varied, opening with the old jazz war-horse ‘A Night In Tunisia’, with the familiar opening vamp picked out on bass guitar and the trio soon hit the swinging stride. Next is ‘Creepin’ written by Joe Sample. This is soulful, funky playing from all concerned and there is a particularly nice bass guitar feature too. ‘For Dancers Only’ is a fine lightly swinging piece written by Sy Oliver which originally saw the light of day in 1937 and is here given a contemporary face lift.
The set continues with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Little Sunflower’. Here I’m reminded of the music of Horace Silver, certainly no bad thing. ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ gets a swinging bluesy treatment. Billy Strayhorn’s magnificent composition, ‘Chelsea Bridge’, gets a suitably reverent treatment. Bass guitar ushers in Miles Davis’ ‘All Blues’ – all very soulful.
There are ten tracks on the album, all but one having impressive jazz pedigrees, the only original composition is the pianist’s tribute to fellow keyboard maestro Victor Feldman, ‘Victor’s Delight’.
For me however, they saved the best to last with a version of Don Grolnick’s ‘Pools’. This is set up by the drums of Dan Lutz before the familiar theme is played impeccably by all.
All-in-all this is a fine album which I cannot recommend highly enough. Go out and buy it immediately.