Jean Toussaint Allstar 6tet ‘Brother Raymond’ CD/DIG (Lyte) 4/5

The historical legacy of the Jazz Messengers is long and wide, but in the case of the UK, the concept of a band that spawns young and talented jazz musicians has been taken up by an ex Jazz Messenger himself and a native of New Orleans, tenorist Jean Toussaint. This is one of the finest new recordings of the year with a superb line-up of the cream of British musicians of the recent past and the immediate future. Pianists Andrew McCormack, Jason Rebello and Ashley Henry share duties while Byron Wallen and Dennis Rollins operate on trumpet and trombone, with a guest appearance on one piece by young Turk, Mark Kavum.

It is some thirty years since Toussaint made the decision to settle on these shores and thereafter make a major contribution as a jazz educator while still pursuing a solo career as a musician. On the piece dedicated to the legacy of Barack Obama, ‘Aambo’ (Obama’s surname spelled backwards), the percussive number opens up the album on a busy, propelling note, and this is book ended by a reprise and alternative version. With a strong Afro-Cuban jazz influence, ‘Major Changes’ is a compelling track with a meaty tenor solo from the leader, while the New Orleans Spanish tinge can be heard on the vignette, ‘Interlude For Idris’, a homage to New Orleans drummer Idris Muhammad, with drum roll based on Ahmad Jamal’s famous ‘Poinciana’ rhythm. Tributes elsewhere include ‘This is for Albert’ and a couple more devoted to Eddie Harris and Roland Kirk respectively. Interestingly, it is the ballads on this album that truly stand out with a gorgeous old school smoocher in, ‘Letters to Milena’, which has definite shades of Mingus in the phrasing, and fine work from the rhythm section, while the mood blues-inflected ‘Doc’ impresses with muted Harmon trumpet and some lovely extended brass ensemble work. As with the rest of the compositions on this album, they are on the surface at least seemingly simple, yet highly effective with plenty happening just below. A lengthy UK tour commences in late September and continues through to mid-December. One of autumn’s treats worth waiting for if this recording is any thing to go by.

2018 Tour dates:

Thursday 27th September: Cambridge Jazz
Friday 28th September: Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Shrewsbury
Saturday 6th October: Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
Sunday 7th October: Herts Jazz Festival
Friday 12th October: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Tuesday 16th October: Norwich Jazz Club
Friday 19th October: RWCMD, Cardiff (Masterclass & Concert)
Thursday 1st November: TrinityLaban Masterclass
Thursday 15th November: 7Arts, Leeds
Friday 16th November: LCoM Masterclass
Friday 16th November: Hull Jazz Festival
Saturday 17th November: The Blue Room, Lincoln
Sunday 18th November: NCEM, York
Saturday 1st December: Calstock Arts Centre

Tim Stenhouse