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A Jazz Odyssey - CD Review

(July 28, 2015)

The Magnificent 7 Jazz Band - A Jazz Odyssey

A tribute to the music of Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball

Total playing time: 75m 57s

Irthling Records: IRMAG7002

Also Sprach Zarathustra/Jeepers Creepers; Beale Street Blues; Stranger On The Shore; Caravan/Oye Como Va; Georgia; Night Train; March Of The Siamese Children; A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square; Tanga; My Girl; Rondo; The Eel; Bourbon Street Parade; But Beautiful; Swing That Music

Amy Roberts (flute, clarinet, alto sax), Richard Exall (clarinet, tenor and alto saxes, vocals, arranger), Ben Cummings (trumpet, vocals), Ian Bateman (trombone), Craig Milverton (piano), Bill Coleman (bass), Nick Millward (drums, vocals)

I am very happy to have been given this, the band’s second CD, for review. The first big plus is a very good, easy to read, front cover. The second, you don’t have to fight your way in through the cellophane to get at it! I’ve never known a CD so easy to open – the cellophane has a ‘lid’ which even I had no trouble opening. Also – somewhat of a rarity these days – the same great musos as were on the first CD! On with the music…

From the very first note you know exactly who you are listening to – The Magnificent 7 Jazz Band! Straight in; that unmistakable sound, quality arrangements, that same swing, exactly where they left off on ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!’ Great jazz music – a superb studio recording, and I can hear that they are all having fun, thus adding a warm, ‘live’ atmosphere to the proceedings. The best of both worlds!

Once again the trio of Milverton, Coleman and Millward provide the swing, tasty backing and drive for the front-line. Coleman with his lovely walking bass, Millward swinging, unrelenting, with Milverton playing as wonderful as ever, also providing us with his own brand of brilliant/sometimes eccentric solo work. Great stuff all round, and the boys work as a team too!

As previously mentioned the quality arrangements are there, very much in evidence, but they swing along in such an easy relaxed manner, as one with the solos, free-wheeling ensemble et al. The whole band is so wonderfully relaxed, highly disciplined, having a lot of fun, and last but not least, brilliant!

As far as the tributes to Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball are concerned, these are played, obviously with due reverence, but nevertheless with the Magnificent Seven’s stamp on them…Arguably the greatest UK hit ever, Stranger On The Shore, is played magnificently by Richard, very simple, with just the rhythm section, and definitely with heart…his own phrasing (not slavishly copied). I’m sure that Acker would have been very proud of this testament.

Straight into Caravan…as in the first CD I suddenly found myself sitting in Rick’s Bar, Casablanca, such are the mood swings of this band. Featuring Ian Bateman, he just about blows the roof off! Ridiculous technique, tone and swing, and in there, somewhere, you can hear some wonderful harmonies gliding in and out. And when Craig Milverton gets into his solo – mind blowing – driven along relentlessly by Nick and Bill. This is followed by Oye Como Va, a Latin American number, composed by Tito Puente. Just listen to Amy Roberts’ flute – world class! And the three-part harmony vocal ain’t bad either!

Ben Cummings, who provides such a good trumpet lead throughout (as usual!) displays his great singing talent in Georgia. The whole number has a lovely cosy, bluesy feeling, particularly from the fingerboard of Craig Milverton.

I could go on and on, but space doesn’t prevail. Suffice to say that this is an exceptional CD, I think marking another milestone in the history of our wonderful music. Many gems not mentioned I’m afraid – Richard Exall’s marvellous tenor sax in The Eel – slippery or what! Richard’s soaring alto in Tanga (a hot, spicy, Samba-type affair), followed by a scintillating trumpet break into a fabulous solo; Amy, again on flute in A nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square. 

Possibly the oldest ‘warhorse’ (I personally hate that term), Bourbon Street Parade, is given a facelift, and swings along nicely, streetbeat et al. Then there is another trombone feature, But Beautiful, beautiful being the operative word, complete with ‘impossible’ note near the end…

Another groundbreaking CD – dare I say the best yet? The reason could be that the band has been together for another year, and it shows. There is an empathy and understanding that many bands would kill for.

Ian Riley of Ian Riley Studios must be congratulated on the superb quality of the recording.

Keep smiling, and Swing That Music – another great tune on your Jazz Odyssey.


Just Jazz magazine 2015

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