Hodge-Stic Review from Just Jazz Magazine(November 28, 2016)
Richard Exall • Amy Roberts
The music of Earl Bostic and Johnny Hodges
Irthling Records: IRARRE02
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Chris Tilke, 2016
Total playing time: approx 67m
Cracked Ice; Jeeps Blues; Special Delivery Stomp; Below The Azores; Deep Purple; Sophisticated Lady; Squatty Roo; Where Or When; Tenderly; Eight Forty Five Stomp; The Jeep Is Jumping; Mood Indigo; Flamingo; Isfahan; Hello Dolly
Amy Roberts (flute, clarinet, alto and baritone saxes), Richard Exall (alto and tenor saxes, clarinet, arranger), Craig Milverton (piano), Sandy Suchodolski (bass), Nick Millward (drums), Steve Vintner (vibraphone)
First of all, I must admit that I am not an expert on Earl Bostic or Johnny Hodges. For that matter, I’m not really an expert on anybody or the type of jazz they play. I just know what I like, what I think is good and not good! So, before we start, let me tell you that I think this CD is good – in fact, bloody good – and very enjoyable. Another gem from Richard, Amy and the boys; a couple of new faces here – Sandy Suchodolski (bass) and Steve Vintner (vibes).
The sleeve notes are very informative. Here are a couple of quotes:
‘Earl Bostic, being a pioneer of the early American rhythm and blues style of music, is much overlooked by today’s jazz fraternity. He was commonly regarded by jazz musicians at the time (John Coltrane and Charlie Parker included) as a supreme jazz saxophonist who could outplay anybody else in a live gig situation…’
‘Johnny Hodges gained fame through the ranks of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, with his smooth solo saxophone style becoming a trademark for both himself and the Orchestra…’
As indicated earlier, this CD review is not so much about comparisons; it’s about whether I like it or not – of course, I do recognise the playing of Hodges and Bostic, but not enough to get ‘technically’ involved…
The first track, an up-tempo Cracked Ice, sets the tone; good jazz, great overall sound, well arranged and, above all, it swings. Richard and Amy, as usual, straight in at the deep end! I nearly fell off my chair at the thought of (and trying to mimic) Amy and Richard’s incredible synchronised breathing between phrases – some lasting over four bars, and not a lot of time for breath in between! Great stuff…Into Jeeps Blues: some real good, ‘funky’ piano from Craig Milverton, and nice ‘walking’ bass from Sandy Suchodolski, and a solo that shows he is no slouch! Steve Vintner swoops into a lovely solo on vibes in Special Delivery Stomp, demonstrating that (on this CD, at least) piano and vibraphone work very well together, not crowding each other out! Straight into Below The Azores, featuring some great flute from Amy; with once again, as on previous CDs (to me anyway) a delightful tinge of Casablanca. Super alto sax from Richard on Sophisticated Lady, with wonderfully inventive piano from Craig.
A (nice) revelation with Amy booting along great on baritone sax in one of my favourite tracks, Squatty Roo; and Craig’s solo piano is great – mad (correct!) chords-a-plenty!! Some very important information here – my son Jamie has a really nice cat named Roo. Some great solo work from Nick Millward, who is certainly not squatting; neither is Richard on his alto sax finishing note in Where Or When!
Eight Forty Five Stomp romps along nicely, with some interesting riff work to boot (especially during the piano solo), followed by Richard’s ever-great tenor sax on The Jeep Is Jumping. Never in the field of jazz has Mood Indigo been played so many times by so many bands; but here is a version to just sit back and enjoy. Richard and Amy oozing sweet and mellow clarinet throughout. Lovely feeling, lovely tones…The CD finishes with a splendid version of Hello Dolly – another of my favourite tracks. It has such a totally relaxed feel…going nowhere in a hurry…just as it should be.
A really enjoyable CD. Everything swings; great arrangements, wonderful technique throughout by all, some nice ‘quirky’ bits, but most agreeable for me, a feeling of warmth, charm and humour coming through…
For information on how to purchase this CD go to www.richardexall.com
or www.amyrobertsjazz.co.uk or catch either Amy/Richard at a gig