Bernies Tune; Tico Tico; Sentimental Journey; Minute Waltz; Doo Doo; High Society; Harlem Nocturn; Why Not; Limehouse Blues; The Very Thought Of You; Tickle Toe; Lovina Mambo; Hushabye Mountain
Amy Roberts (flute, clarinet, alto sax), Richard Exall (clarinet, tenor and alto saxes, vocals, arranger), Neil Angilley (piano), Bill Coleman (bass), Adam Riley (drums)
This is the first CD by the Amy Roberts/Richard Exall Quintet, and terrific it is too, right from the first note to the last…maybe it could have been called ‘Straight in at the deep end – no messing!’ Straight in, indeed, with a meaty, really swinging version of Bernies Tune. DNC (definitely not Colyer), but I wouldn’t mind betting that he would have approved – he liked most, so long as it was good – Swingle Singers included.
Back to Bernies Tune. This tune really sets the stall for the whole CD, with some fine tenor sax by Richard, great flute from Amy, and wonderfully unrelenting ‘walking’ bass from Bill Coleman, who, together with Neil Angilley and Adam Riley completing the superb rhythm section on piano and drums respectively, drives and swings it all along, seemingly effortlessly. Sounds more like an octet than a quintet – must be Richard’s arranging!
Next up, Tico Tico: a very nimble and tight arrangement, illustrating the obvious skills both Amy and Richard have on their instruments; once again great flute – and lovely clarinet from Richard. Also a thoroughly good, mad piano solo, sounding to me like a fusion of Errol Garner, Fats Waller and Thelonious Monk – brilliant is the first word that comes to mind! The tune (a Samba, I believe) has a lovely Caribbean 1950s feel about it. Humphrey Bogart and all that stuff…I love it.
Sentimental Journey is very bluesy, going nowhere in a hurry. Super ‘funky’ bass solo from Coleman. Also quite simplistic (again ‘walking’) bass throughout, but always just at the right time hitting that bottom C, the front line ‘bouncing’ off it beautifully. Great stuff, ending with a full, powerful chord – nothing fancy – just the perfect choice of notes, which is easier said than done!
Minute Waltz: Classic(al) jazz at its very finest. Absolutely stunning! Followed by a nice spicy Latin Doo Doo, written by Exall, who solos on some wonderful tenor sax. Great drum solo, too: funky rhythms with a Thelonious-type piano riff throughout.
High Society is taken at a very relaxed tempo – all the bits and pieces – great street-beat! Nice to hear the usual suspects playing together rather than in competition with each other…some nice piano thrown in for good measure.
The title track Why Not, described in the excellent sleeve notes by Jeff Barnhart as ‘a mouth-watering fusion of Funk and Latin’. Couldn’t have put it better myself! Fairly up-tempo, lots of ‘jumping’ the beat and cross-rhythms (I love all that!), particularly when it is right, which it certainly is here. The whole number is a hot spicy mix of – well, hear it for yourselves! And yet more great, sometimes mind-boggling, piano by Cornishman Neil Angilley…
For me, one of the highlights of this CD is The Very Thought Of You. The whole number is so relaxed, ‘smoky’ if you like, with Richard oozing some of best tenor sax ever, maybe (I am not an expert on this) slightly in the style of Ben Webster? I could imagine a sultry Amy swooning in the background – very Casablancaesque. Once again, great ‘walking bass’. Also, a lovely vocal from Exall: no histrionics – just good (bloody good) singing.
Amy and the boys take it out with a beautiful tune, Hushabye Mountain, from the film ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. A great rendition, wonderfully played by Miss Roberts on the flute with much feeling and sensitivity.
I must apologise (through lack of space) for not mentioning all the tracks – suffice to say they are all terrific, very diverse, very atmospheric, well played, and very importantly, well balanced. Also, the Quintet establishes its own unmistakable sound. Buy this CD!!
Jim McIntosh - Just Jazz Magazine