In the 1960s and 1970s British jazz made a major contribution to larger orchestral works and it seems that with this in mind, saxophonist Mark Lockheart has been inspired to compose his own work and one that marks his most ambitious project to date. The lush orchestral opening to ‘A View From Above’ certainly harks back to the 1950s, and, if anything, owes a debt of gratitude to the work of Gil Evans whose influences permeates proceedings. Lockheart operates on a soaring saxophone in the background while the epic sounds of strings are in the ascendancy. A personal favourite is the ballad, ‘Triana’, which would be ideal on a film soundtrack with gorgeous horns and strings straight out of the Debussy/Ravel school. Of interest equally is the pared down use of piano by Liam Noble and there is a gentle build up of tension with a Spanish tinge feel. On other pieces such as ‘Brave World’, the music has a strong film soundtrack quality and with this extended formation parallels are inevitable. Throughout proceedings, the warmth of the tenor solos by the leader shines through, and the originality and quirkiness of the orchestrations is illustrated by ‘This Much Is True’, performed to a quasi-bossa nova drum beat and with dissonant phrasings by the horns.
Of the uptempo numbers, the soul-jazz piano riff to ‘Party Animal’, is appealing with appropriate wailing from the woodwind section. With an inner core comprising John Parricelli on guitar, Tom Herbert on bass, Seb Rochford on drums and not forgetting Liam Noble on piano, this is a band capable of some fireworks. Factor in a welcome return of flautist Rowland Sutherland, a veteran of the UK jazz scene and leader in his own right, and you have one fine album.