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John Rae & Ben Wilcock - new album release, January 2024.

Monday, January 29, 2024

New Zealand-based Scottish drummer John Rae & his partner in music and business, pianist Ben Wilcock have released a new album, Splendid Isolation on their Thick Records (NZ) label. Press release att

We have received the following press release;


New album reflects home thought from abroad

New Zealand-based Scottish drummer John Rae and his partner in music and business, pianist Ben Wilcock have released a new album, Splendid Isolation on their Thick Records (NZ) label.

Featuring fifteen tracks that reflect their respective histories in melodic jazz, free expression and the blues, the album includes contributions from Scotland and Ireland. 

Dundee-based guitarist Kevin Murray plays on three tracks. Former Black Seeds saxophonist Jabin Ward added his parts from his new home in Cork, with bassist Patrick Bleakley, from Rae’s NZ band The Troubles, and saxophonist Daniel Yeabsley joining Rae and Wilcock in New Zealand.

“The best jazz is made when all the players are in the same room,” says Rae. “That’s been the case since the music emerged from New Orleans, of course. At the same time, though, if the technology is there, you might as well use it. We knew Kevin would instinctively know what was required and he worked very fast to complete the tracks. He also mastered the album for us, so it’s been a real Transworld collaboration.”

Other Scottish links are celebrated in the tune Apple Road, a tribute to Rae’s father, bassist Ronnie Rae whose extensive CV includes working with the Alex Welsh Band and gigs with Red Norvo and Tal Farlow. Rae’s Tak a Minute sounds like a Scots expression but actually refers to the Indian konnakol rhythmic language that the tune is based on.

Rae moved to New Zealand in 2008, having won admirers for his John Rae Collective (a band of bandleaders that featured saxophonist Phil Bancroft, trumpeter Colin Steele, pianist Brian Kellock and guitarist Kevin Mackenzie) and his award-winning Celtic Feet, which combined Scottish traditional-style tunes with hard-swinging jazz. Celtic Feet expanded on occasion to include a traditional pipe band and a big band horn section. Rae also played with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and in pianist Brian Kellock’s trio.

Wilcock lived and worked in the UK for a few years after visiting the Edinburgh Fringe with a New Zealand theatre company. As well as listening avidly to, and learning from, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Erroll Garner, Bill Evans, George Shearing and Benny Green, he has worked with drummer Bob Moses and multi-reeds specialist Bennie Maupin and appeared extensively with blues, soul and R&B musicians.

Splendid Isolation was recorded over two years and Rae and Wilcock are pleased with the results.

“There are elements of both chaos and beauty and again, that’s true of a lot of jazz,” says Rae. “We set out to make an album that reflects both Ben and my musical experiences and at the same time looks forward. It’s jazz for the twenty-first century and ahead of its release we’ve had positive feedback from as far afield as Atlanta, Newcastle and Melbourne. So I think we might have achieved our aims.”

Splendid Isolation is available now from Thick Records