Gareth Lockrane’s Grooveyard ‘The Strut’ (Whirlwind) 4/5

London independent label Whirlwind are quickly making a name for themselves in uncovering some of the hippest new talent on the UK jazz scene and this is one of their best signings thus far. Leader, composer and flautist Gareth Lockrane actually studied first of all at the National Film and Television school to postgraduate level, but music has become his major passion and a debut album was recorded back in 2003 ‘Grooveyard put the cat out’. The long awaited follow has been virtually a decade in the making and the album is brimming with beautiful soul-jazz flavours that have a good deal more meat on the bone than one might normally expect from this kind of formation. Indeed the band performed on the opening night of the 2012 London Jazz Festival at the Forge in Camden. Thus ‘Whistleblower’ is lovely flute-led number with a heavy saxophone solo from long-time accompanist Alex Garnett and some menacing hammond organ from the Larry Young school of playing. In contrast the gentle mid-tempo groove of the opener ‘Frizz’ with flute and brass, features an extended tenor solo from Garnett and keyboardist Ross Stanley. Guest performer Niua Lynn features on three compositions, offering wordless vocals. Overall the album is quite varied in its approach with cinematic, funk and rock influences all appearing at various junctures. The musicians really stretch out over infectous jazz-dance rhythms and this marks the band as one to watch out for in the near future. The inventive cartoonesque sleeve cover comes courtesy of artist Bill Bragg (no connection presumably with the English folk singer-songwriter).

Tim Stenhouse