Various ‘Trad Dads, Dirty Boppers and Free Fusioneers: British jazz in the 1960s and 1970s’ (Reel) 4/5

A definite contender for album title of the year if nothing else, this is a lovingly assembled compilation of hitherto unreleased sides, live and in the studio, from the cream of modern British jazz and with some unexpected treats and, to this writer’s knowledge at least, a few unknown names. The Impressed series that Universal put out a few years did a sterling job of uncovering some of the classic Bristish albums that in their vinyl format are extremely rare and, if you liked those, you will love this new anthology for it covers similar territory and then some. Just some of the names covered here reads like the who’s who of British jazz as well as some eminent guests from other countries who settled here: Ian Carr and Don Rendell; Michael Garrick; Joe Harriott; John Surman; Mike Taylor; Kenny Wheeler. The opener sets the tone with a fine hard-bop influenced piece, ‘Phrysic’ by pianist Mike Taylor and betraying a definite nod to one Horace Silver. Some fine trumpet soloing from Frank Powell and the warm tenor sound of Dave Tomlin make for a thrilling audio experience. Indian guitarist Armancio d’Silva was one of the discoveries for this writer from the Impressed series and here he offers a fascinating slice of Indo-jazz fusion here with ‘Joyce country’ from 1969 that includes the full Ian Carr and Don Rendell quintet. A real new discovery comes in the form of Gary Windo’s Symbiosis which sounds as thought it has been inspired by the late 1960s/early 1970s funk-tinged rhythm guitar work of Grant Green and Melvin Sparks with a suitably uptempo composition ‘Standfast’. Quite why this formation has not been showcased before is a mystery, but full marks to Reel for promoting the group’s work. Another unknown set of musicians are Henry Lowther and the Lyn Dobson quintet who, on a beautifully recorded live recording from a café on Ladbroke Grove, offer the lengthy ten minute plus ‘Scarpo’, a definite album highlight and the obvious influence of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with the tenorist a devotee of Hank Mobley. Did this group ever record an album? Freer jazz grooves are present from the Joe Harriott quintet from 1968 that includes the memorable collaboration of Canadian trumpet maestro Kenny Wheeler on ‘Shadow’, which harks back to the ‘Free Form’ and ‘Abstract’ periods. Elsewhere there is the vocal piece ‘Singing for the small chaps’ from Graham Collier’s formation that features a young Norma Winstone on vocals. Sound quality varies from one recording to another, but is generally perfectly acceptable and surprisingly good in places. The gatefold sleeve features an iconic photo from Val Wilmer showing Ronnie Scott outside his Frith St club and the rigorously researched and annotated sleeve notes complete the experience as a whole with aplomb. An accompanying book by this CDs compiler, Duncan Heining, of the exact same title is out and, if this excellent anthology is anything to go by, it will make for essential reading. Tim Stenhouse