Nigel Price Organ Trio ‘Wes Reimagined’ 2LP/CD (Ubuntu Music) 5/5

Guitarist Nigel Price has been an important part of the British jazz scene for more than twenty-five years. His guitar style draws upon the blues and bebop. He cites Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery as important influences. He appears on an impressive 50 plus albums including nine as leader or co-leader. He is also an acknowledged educator.

This most recent release from Price’s organ trio is indeed a reimagination of the music of his hero Wes Montgomery. Not a slavish copy but a new conception; the originating of something that had been running around in Price’s mind for some time. Here we have a choice selection of music from the Montgomery catalogue and what better vehicle for such a project than the Organ Trio, a formation that Montgomery adopted himself with great success. The album could not fail with Ross Stanley on Hammond Organ and Joel Barford at the drums. But added to this potent mix are guests Vasilis Xenopoulos on tenor saxophone, Tony Kofi on alto saxophone and Snowboy providing additional percussion. The icing on this most musical cake is the Phonograph Effect Strings conducted by Callum Au who provides subtle ornamentation on several tracks.

The album pays homage to the recordings that Montgomery released prior to 1965. After this point, he moved from hard bop and soul-jazz to a more pop-oriented style. Of the ten tracks, eight are from Wes’ pen with one from his brother Monk and the set culminates with a composition from the 1956 musical My Fair Lady which Montgomery recorded in 1962 and which can be heard on his album ‘Full House’.

‘Cariba!’ makes for a wonderful funky opener with a fine unison theme statement and tenor saxophone reminiscent of Stanley Turrentine plus the eloquent strings and searing alto saxophone solo, what’s not to like. Price nails the Montgomery ‘sound’. Perfection. Lovely brushwork opens ‘Leila’, a swinger, giving us chance to hear Ross Stanley at length, bringing to my mind memories of the great Mike Carr.

Percussion is to the fore on ‘Jingles’ with more guitar and tenor sax unison lines. Fluid guitar lines are the hallmark of this piece and there is more Hammond artistry from Ross Stanley. ‘Far Wes’ is a particular favourite, relaxed yet swinging in waltz time. The strings return for ‘So Do It’, a beguiling bolero-styled piece.

The funk returns for ‘Movin’ Along’, an attractive bluesy tune. In fact, the blues are omnipresent throughout this fine album in one form or another.

Almost as an antidote to the music that has gone before, the last piece on the album sees this jazz guitar Professor performing a sensitive, virtuoso rendition of ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face’. Accompaniment is provided by the strings once again and Ross Stanley performs at his melodic best turning in perhaps his best solo of the album.
The performances are immaculate in conception and performance and the whole album provides a joyous reinterpretation of the music of a past jazz master. As great as the album is, however, I think this music would be best enjoyed in a live setting. Let’s hope that it’s not too long before we get the chance to do this.

In the meantime, buy the album. It’s available on CD, double vinyl album and download. More information can be found here: https://nigethejazzer.com/

Alan Musson