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Nick Costley-White - Detour Ahead Rating: 3-5 out of 5 A good introduction to his abilities as a guitarist, composer and interpreter. The leader is well supported by an excellent band who all make telling contributions to the overall success of the music.

Nick Costley-White

“Detour Ahead”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0010)

Nick Costley-White is a young guitarist and composer and an active presence on the London jazz scene. A graduate of the jazz course at the Guildhall School of Music (where his guitar tutors included Colin Oxley, Phil Robson, John Parricelli and Mike Outram)  he is a versatile musician who is capable of performing across a variety of jazz genres.

Besides leading his own groups Costley-White has worked as a sideman with such well established musicians as saxophonists Martin Speake, Stan Sulzmann and Pete Hurt, trumpeter Steve Fishwick and drummer Jeff Williams. He has recorded with rising stars Henry Spencer (trumpet) and Tommy Andrews (alto sax) plus the group Snowpoet, co-led by vocalist/lyricist Lauren Kinsella and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Hyson.

Costley-White is also a member of the Dixie Ticklers, a young sextet who put a modern twist on classic trad jazz and New Orleans material. Together with Dixie Ticklers clarinettist Dom James he’s the founder of the Jazz Nursery organisation, currently based at the Iklectik Arts Lab in Waterloo.

As Costley-White’s CV suggests he’s a musician with a genuine and ongoing love of the jazz tradition but who remains firmly rooted in the present day. His début recording as a leader sees him fronting a core quartet comprised of some of London’s leading young jazz musicians and comprises Matt Robinson on piano, Conor Chaplin on double bass and Dave Hamblett at the drums. On some pieces the group is augmented by multi reeds player Sam Rapley,  here specialising on bass clarinet.

“Detour Ahead” features six original compositions by Costley-White together with two outside items, the title track, written by fellow guitarist Herb Ellis, and the Cole Porter classic “Just One Of Those Things”, which opens the album.

Costley-White seeks to combine the virtues of the ‘Great American Songbook’ with a more modern aesthetic rooted in the contemporary London jazz scene as he explains;
“What’s crucial for me in this group is that the musicians play in a contemporary style that is rooted in the fundamentals of playing traditional jazz harmony and rhythm. The melding of these two aspects is what I try to balance when writing music specifically for these players. Through this process I hope to express my own voice within this idiom which I fine endlessly inspiring”.

In November 2016 I enjoyed a performance by Costley-White at Iklectik that formed part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. The guitarist was leading a trio featuring Chaplin and drummer Dave Ingamells in a programme that explored the music of Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.

Porter is obviously a touchstone for the young guitarist and “Just One Of Those Things” featured in that set and kicks things off here. Costley-White says of his interpretation;
“’Just One Of Those Things” is a wonderfully witty and clever song by the great Cole Porter. Further twists and turns in the arrangement keep the listener on their toes whilst the soloists dig into every corner of this beautifully harmonic song”.
The performance sees Costley-White and his colleagues setting their stall out. The leader features a ‘classic’ jazz guitar sound, clear and pure and with little distortion or recourse to electronic effects. His opening solo is full of lithe melodic lines and sophisticated chording, somehow managing to sound reassuringly old fashioned and pleasingly contemporary at the same time. The leader is followed by Robinson who delivers a sparkling piano solo propelled by Hamblett’s crisp and busy drumming. Then it’s back to Costley-White for more melodic variations on Porter’s classic tune.

The first original, “Loads Of Bar Blues,” is a contemporary exploration of the classic blues structure that informs so much great jazz. Costley-White continues to favour that classic, clean, orthodox jazz guitar sound while occasionally hinting at the influence of Metheny and Frisell. Again the leader takes the first solo, his languid melodicism followed by the consistently inventive Robinson at the piano. Meanwhile Chaplin and Hamblett inject a vital urgency to the proceedings with the latter’s nimble, neatly detailed drumming a constant source of interest. Indeed Hamblett enjoys a substantial feature in the closing stages of the tune.

“Swing State” introduces a Monk-like quirkiness and sees the ever resourceful Robinson taking the first solo. He’s followed by the leader with his slippery, agile, bebop inspired guitar runs. Hamblett’s neatly energetic drumming keeps everything ticking over and he also enjoys a series of brisk drum breaks as he exchanges phrases with Costley-White and Robinson.

A passage of unaccompanied acoustic guitar introduces Herb Ellis’ title track with Costley-White eventually joined by Chaplin’s rounded bass and Hamblett’s delicately brushed drums. Chaplin steps out of the shadows to deliver a delightfully melodic bass solo while Costley-White subtly explores the contours of the piece in this elegant trio performance. Ellis’ song, also credited to John Frigo and Lou Carter, was famously covered by pianist Bill Evans and by singers ranging from Billie Holiday to Cecile McLorin Salvant. Costley-White’s interpretation sits well with such illustrious company.

The original “Thinky Pain” is a dedication to the American comedian (and occasional guitarist) Marc Maron. Costley-White describes the piece as “a portrait in three parts” and the performance sees the distinctive sound of Sam Rapley’s bass clarinet added to the equation.
The first section features Costley-White’s unaccompanied acoustic guitar, playing what the composer describes as “an open palette of clustered chords”.
The rhythm section, plus Rapley, then join the proceedings adding “a steady travelling pulse whilst the polytonal theme is slowly unwrapped and explored through further improvisations”. These include an expansively lyrical piano solo from Robinson and an intriguing and inventive bass clarinet solo from Rapley, whose playing represents a good representation of the flexibility and range of his chosen instrument.
Of the third section Costley-White says; “The final section strips us back to just the double bass, and gradually all the instruments, harmonies and rhythms are stacked on to one another, building a rich and beautifully dissonant sound world. As if from nowhere the final chord is struck, peacefully resolving all tensions”. It may all appear a little academic but it’s highly effective and strangely beautiful.  Rapley’s bass clarinet is a particularly key component in the process as he combines effectively with Robinson on piano.

Rapley also appears on “The Kernel”, another of the album’s more contemporary post bop pieces. Relatively brief at a little over three minutes it includes a concise solo from Robinson with the pianist shadowed by Hamblett’s drums. Costley-White retains a comparatively low profile, only coming to prominence in the final stages of the tune.

“Bridges” commences with an exquisite dialogue between Costley-White on guitar and Robinson on piano. The addition of bass and drums steers the music into more conventional jazz waters with Chaplin contributing another excellent double bass solo, melodic and dexterous. The leader follows on guitar, with a solo that combines conventional jazz sophistication with an agreeably contemporary urgency.

The album concludes with “My Number One” which signals a brief sidestep into fusion style territory with Robinson moving to electric piano and adopting a classic Fender Rhodes sound.
The keyboard man spars joyously with Costley-White, whose sound here is more obviously ‘electric’, but without sacrificing any of the fluency and elegance that is always apparent in his playing.

“Detour Ahead” is an album that reveals two sides of Costley-White’s talent. I don’t know if there is a vinyl version of the recording but in effect ‘Side A’, i.e. tracks one to four, highlights the guitarist’s skill as an interpreter of jazz standards and as a writer of original pieces in that vein.
‘Side B’ i.e. tracks five to eight presents Costley-White in a more contemporary light with Rapley adding a distinctive additional instrumental voice to the proceedings.

Personally I’m more drawn to the second half of the album but there will also be many listeners who will find it easier to relate to what I have dubbed ‘Side A’. Indeed Costley-White himself has stated that he is finding himself drawn ever more strongly to interpreting the subtleties of the standards repertoire.

“Detour Ahead” represents a good introduction to his abilities as a guitarist, composer and interpreter and the leader is well supported by an excellent band who all make telling contributions to the overall success of the music.

Costley-White, Robinson, Chaplin and Hamblett will be touring the album extensively in the UK during September, October and November 2018 with dates listed below;


NICK COSTLEY-WHITE QUARTET ON TOUR;


03/09/18 - NCW4 @ Peer Hat Jazz, Manchester
04/09/18 - NCW4 @ The Spotted Dog, Birmingham
05/09/18 - NCW4 @ The Lescar, Sheffield
07/09/18 - NCW4 @ Hampstead Jazz Club, Hampstead
08/09/18 - NCW4 @ The Bear Club, Luton
13/09/18 - NCW4 @ Future Inns, Bristol
15/09/18 - NCW4 @ Zeffirelli’s, Ambleside
20/09/18 - NCW4 @ The SoundCellar, Poole
23/09/18 - NCW4 @ Southampton Modern Jazz Club
27/09/18 - NCW4 @ Silvershine Jazz Club, Smethwick
29/09/18 - NCW4 @ Jazz at Heart, Headingley
03/10/18 - NCW4 @ Jazzland, Swansea
04/10/18 - NCW4 @ Café Jazz, Cardiff
05/10/18 - NCW4 @ Con Cellar Bar, Camden
17/10/18 - NCW4 @ House Concert, Edinburgh
18/10/18 - NCW4 @ The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
21/10/18 - NCW4 @ Sela Bar, Leeds
23/10/18 - NCW4 @ The Mad Hatter, Oxford
24/10/18 - NCW4 @ Mill Hill Jazz Club, Mill Hill
30/10/18 - NCW4 @ St Ives Jazz Club, St Ives
08/11/18 - NCW4 @ The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
09/11/18 - NCW4 @ The Blue Arrow, Glasgow

Detour Ahead

Nick Costley-White

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

3-5 out of 5

Detour Ahead

A good introduction to his abilities as a guitarist, composer and interpreter. The leader is well supported by an excellent band who all make telling contributions to the overall success of the music.

Nick Costley-White

“Detour Ahead”

(Ubuntu Music UBU0010)

Nick Costley-White is a young guitarist and composer and an active presence on the London jazz scene. A graduate of the jazz course at the Guildhall School of Music (where his guitar tutors included Colin Oxley, Phil Robson, John Parricelli and Mike Outram)  he is a versatile musician who is capable of performing across a variety of jazz genres.

Besides leading his own groups Costley-White has worked as a sideman with such well established musicians as saxophonists Martin Speake, Stan Sulzmann and Pete Hurt, trumpeter Steve Fishwick and drummer Jeff Williams. He has recorded with rising stars Henry Spencer (trumpet) and Tommy Andrews (alto sax) plus the group Snowpoet, co-led by vocalist/lyricist Lauren Kinsella and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Hyson.

Costley-White is also a member of the Dixie Ticklers, a young sextet who put a modern twist on classic trad jazz and New Orleans material. Together with Dixie Ticklers clarinettist Dom James he’s the founder of the Jazz Nursery organisation, currently based at the Iklectik Arts Lab in Waterloo.

As Costley-White’s CV suggests he’s a musician with a genuine and ongoing love of the jazz tradition but who remains firmly rooted in the present day. His début recording as a leader sees him fronting a core quartet comprised of some of London’s leading young jazz musicians and comprises Matt Robinson on piano, Conor Chaplin on double bass and Dave Hamblett at the drums. On some pieces the group is augmented by multi reeds player Sam Rapley,  here specialising on bass clarinet.

“Detour Ahead” features six original compositions by Costley-White together with two outside items, the title track, written by fellow guitarist Herb Ellis, and the Cole Porter classic “Just One Of Those Things”, which opens the album.

Costley-White seeks to combine the virtues of the ‘Great American Songbook’ with a more modern aesthetic rooted in the contemporary London jazz scene as he explains;
“What’s crucial for me in this group is that the musicians play in a contemporary style that is rooted in the fundamentals of playing traditional jazz harmony and rhythm. The melding of these two aspects is what I try to balance when writing music specifically for these players. Through this process I hope to express my own voice within this idiom which I fine endlessly inspiring”.

In November 2016 I enjoyed a performance by Costley-White at Iklectik that formed part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. The guitarist was leading a trio featuring Chaplin and drummer Dave Ingamells in a programme that explored the music of Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.

Porter is obviously a touchstone for the young guitarist and “Just One Of Those Things” featured in that set and kicks things off here. Costley-White says of his interpretation;
“’Just One Of Those Things” is a wonderfully witty and clever song by the great Cole Porter. Further twists and turns in the arrangement keep the listener on their toes whilst the soloists dig into every corner of this beautifully harmonic song”.
The performance sees Costley-White and his colleagues setting their stall out. The leader features a ‘classic’ jazz guitar sound, clear and pure and with little distortion or recourse to electronic effects. His opening solo is full of lithe melodic lines and sophisticated chording, somehow managing to sound reassuringly old fashioned and pleasingly contemporary at the same time. The leader is followed by Robinson who delivers a sparkling piano solo propelled by Hamblett’s crisp and busy drumming. Then it’s back to Costley-White for more melodic variations on Porter’s classic tune.

The first original, “Loads Of Bar Blues,” is a contemporary exploration of the classic blues structure that informs so much great jazz. Costley-White continues to favour that classic, clean, orthodox jazz guitar sound while occasionally hinting at the influence of Metheny and Frisell. Again the leader takes the first solo, his languid melodicism followed by the consistently inventive Robinson at the piano. Meanwhile Chaplin and Hamblett inject a vital urgency to the proceedings with the latter’s nimble, neatly detailed drumming a constant source of interest. Indeed Hamblett enjoys a substantial feature in the closing stages of the tune.

“Swing State” introduces a Monk-like quirkiness and sees the ever resourceful Robinson taking the first solo. He’s followed by the leader with his slippery, agile, bebop inspired guitar runs. Hamblett’s neatly energetic drumming keeps everything ticking over and he also enjoys a series of brisk drum breaks as he exchanges phrases with Costley-White and Robinson.

A passage of unaccompanied acoustic guitar introduces Herb Ellis’ title track with Costley-White eventually joined by Chaplin’s rounded bass and Hamblett’s delicately brushed drums. Chaplin steps out of the shadows to deliver a delightfully melodic bass solo while Costley-White subtly explores the contours of the piece in this elegant trio performance. Ellis’ song, also credited to John Frigo and Lou Carter, was famously covered by pianist Bill Evans and by singers ranging from Billie Holiday to Cecile McLorin Salvant. Costley-White’s interpretation sits well with such illustrious company.

The original “Thinky Pain” is a dedication to the American comedian (and occasional guitarist) Marc Maron. Costley-White describes the piece as “a portrait in three parts” and the performance sees the distinctive sound of Sam Rapley’s bass clarinet added to the equation.
The first section features Costley-White’s unaccompanied acoustic guitar, playing what the composer describes as “an open palette of clustered chords”.
The rhythm section, plus Rapley, then join the proceedings adding “a steady travelling pulse whilst the polytonal theme is slowly unwrapped and explored through further improvisations”. These include an expansively lyrical piano solo from Robinson and an intriguing and inventive bass clarinet solo from Rapley, whose playing represents a good representation of the flexibility and range of his chosen instrument.
Of the third section Costley-White says; “The final section strips us back to just the double bass, and gradually all the instruments, harmonies and rhythms are stacked on to one another, building a rich and beautifully dissonant sound world. As if from nowhere the final chord is struck, peacefully resolving all tensions”. It may all appear a little academic but it’s highly effective and strangely beautiful.  Rapley’s bass clarinet is a particularly key component in the process as he combines effectively with Robinson on piano.

Rapley also appears on “The Kernel”, another of the album’s more contemporary post bop pieces. Relatively brief at a little over three minutes it includes a concise solo from Robinson with the pianist shadowed by Hamblett’s drums. Costley-White retains a comparatively low profile, only coming to prominence in the final stages of the tune.

“Bridges” commences with an exquisite dialogue between Costley-White on guitar and Robinson on piano. The addition of bass and drums steers the music into more conventional jazz waters with Chaplin contributing another excellent double bass solo, melodic and dexterous. The leader follows on guitar, with a solo that combines conventional jazz sophistication with an agreeably contemporary urgency.

The album concludes with “My Number One” which signals a brief sidestep into fusion style territory with Robinson moving to electric piano and adopting a classic Fender Rhodes sound.
The keyboard man spars joyously with Costley-White, whose sound here is more obviously ‘electric’, but without sacrificing any of the fluency and elegance that is always apparent in his playing.

“Detour Ahead” is an album that reveals two sides of Costley-White’s talent. I don’t know if there is a vinyl version of the recording but in effect ‘Side A’, i.e. tracks one to four, highlights the guitarist’s skill as an interpreter of jazz standards and as a writer of original pieces in that vein.
‘Side B’ i.e. tracks five to eight presents Costley-White in a more contemporary light with Rapley adding a distinctive additional instrumental voice to the proceedings.

Personally I’m more drawn to the second half of the album but there will also be many listeners who will find it easier to relate to what I have dubbed ‘Side A’. Indeed Costley-White himself has stated that he is finding himself drawn ever more strongly to interpreting the subtleties of the standards repertoire.

“Detour Ahead” represents a good introduction to his abilities as a guitarist, composer and interpreter and the leader is well supported by an excellent band who all make telling contributions to the overall success of the music.

Costley-White, Robinson, Chaplin and Hamblett will be touring the album extensively in the UK during September, October and November 2018 with dates listed below;


NICK COSTLEY-WHITE QUARTET ON TOUR;


03/09/18 - NCW4 @ Peer Hat Jazz, Manchester
04/09/18 - NCW4 @ The Spotted Dog, Birmingham
05/09/18 - NCW4 @ The Lescar, Sheffield
07/09/18 - NCW4 @ Hampstead Jazz Club, Hampstead
08/09/18 - NCW4 @ The Bear Club, Luton
13/09/18 - NCW4 @ Future Inns, Bristol
15/09/18 - NCW4 @ Zeffirelli’s, Ambleside
20/09/18 - NCW4 @ The SoundCellar, Poole
23/09/18 - NCW4 @ Southampton Modern Jazz Club
27/09/18 - NCW4 @ Silvershine Jazz Club, Smethwick
29/09/18 - NCW4 @ Jazz at Heart, Headingley
03/10/18 - NCW4 @ Jazzland, Swansea
04/10/18 - NCW4 @ Café Jazz, Cardiff
05/10/18 - NCW4 @ Con Cellar Bar, Camden
17/10/18 - NCW4 @ House Concert, Edinburgh
18/10/18 - NCW4 @ The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
21/10/18 - NCW4 @ Sela Bar, Leeds
23/10/18 - NCW4 @ The Mad Hatter, Oxford
24/10/18 - NCW4 @ Mill Hill Jazz Club, Mill Hill
30/10/18 - NCW4 @ St Ives Jazz Club, St Ives
08/11/18 - NCW4 @ The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
09/11/18 - NCW4 @ The Blue Arrow, Glasgow


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