by Ian Mann
February 27, 2012
An album of warmth and charm with excellent contributions from all four musicians.
Andy Aitchison Quartet
“You Ain’t Never”
(Lejazzetal Records LJCD12)
The latest release on Dave Kelbie’s Lejazzetal imprint is this engaging session led by violinist Andy Aitchison. Aitchison is an experienced jazz and roots musician and has worked with celebrated gypsy jazz guitarists Fapy Lafertin, Lollo Meier, Angelo Debarre and Jacopo Martini. He has also played more “straight ahead” jazz with guitarist John Etheridge and vocalist Tina May. Aitchison has also been a regular member of The Kimbara Brothers and of the Balkan music group Szapora.
This latest project teams Aitchison with lead guitarist Jeff Green, label boss Dave Kelbie on rhythm and Paul Moylan on double bass. Despite the instrumentation and the fact that Aitchison was originally inspired by the Hot Club of France the leader doesn’t come across as some kind of Stephane Grapelli clone. Instead Aitchison’s playing is more considered with a fuller, more rounded tone than his illustrious predecessor. In addition rather than re-interpreting the Hot Club repertoire Aitchison has turned to the swing era and the Great American Songbook for his inspiration for this recording. In other words like the best contemporary “gypsy jazz” musicians he’s putting his own stamp on the Django Reinhardt/Grapelli legacy and the result is an album of warmth and charm and a modest degree of musical adventure.
The album commences with the title track, composed by Aitchison and the only original on the record. A convincing piece of writing in the Hot Club style it’s described in Charles Alexander’s (himself a fine guitarist) illuminative liner notes as “a medium tempo minor key swinger”. After the quartet state the theme Aitchison takes the unusual step of giving the first solo to bassist Paul Moylan and he’s followed by the coolly elegant Green on semi acoustic. As Alexander observes his solo here owes more to Charlie Christian than Django Reinhardt. Aitchison engages Green in dialogue before taking over the lead as the piece builds to a climax topped off with an eccentric violin coda.
“Willow Weep For Me”, the Ann Ronell tune made famous by singers Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald is a moving blues ballad paced perfectly by rhythm guitar ace Dave Kelbie and with moving, eloquent solos from Aitchison and Green. The latter is a vastly experienced player steeped in the traditions of Christian, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery and others. He actually worked with Stephane Grapelli himself for a number of years.
The swinging “Six Appeal” was written by clarinettist Benny Goodman, the “King of Swing” and was originally played by his sextet featuring Charlie Christian. Aitchison and Green emulate the good natured sparring of the original with Aitchison’s violin assuming Goodman’s clarinet role. Bassist Moylan occasionally steps in to the foreground and the always reliable Kelbie provides a solid rhythmic backbone throughout.
Duke Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me” is taken at a sensuous slowed down tempo, the imaginative arrangement the vehicle for eloquent solos from Aitchison, Green and Moylan.
The quartet stretch out effectively on Sidney Bechet’s “Blues In The Air”, one of his lesser known numbers. There’s a sensuous, languid feel to this too with Aitchison’s fluent opening solo followed by Green’s authentically bluesy guitar. Kelbie varies the tempo for a second Aitchison solo and there’s also a feature for Moylan, the violinist’s Szapora band mate.
Cole Porter’s “Night And Day” sees Aitchison embellishing the melody above the rich rhythmic undertow of Moylan and Kelbie. The violinist is a hugely imaginative player who has developed a highly personal style on the instrument. Green is his customarily eloquent and economical self with a well measured solo but it’s the violinists expressive bowing and occasional pizzicato that are the main focus here.
Moylan’s deeply bowed bass adds a pleasantly old fashioned feel to “Stars Fell On Alabama”
written by Frank S. Perkins and Mitchell Parish. Accompanied by the rock solid Kelbie the whole arrangement is basically a feature for the highly impressive talents of Moylan, a versatile player who combines his jazz and roots work with playing in the pit of leading West End productions such as “Oliver!” and “Oklahoma!”.
Rodgers and Hart’s “This Can’t Be Love” offers a nice contrast with the quartet taking it at a fast clip in true Hot Club style. Aitchison’s virtuoso playing is highly impressive and Green is also appropriately nimble with Moylan also enjoying intermittent cameos.
The much covered standard “I Can’t Get Started”, written by Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin, represents the last of the slower numbers with both Aitchison and Green making sumptuous contributions on violin and guitar respectively.
“It’s Only A Paper Moon” (by Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg and Billy Rose) is a high tempo, furiously swinging solo with bravura solos from Aitchison and Green above Kelbie’s propulsive rhythms.
“You Ain’t Never” is a well paced and well chosen set with excellent contributions from all four musicians. The album reveals Andy Aitchison to be a highly imaginative violinist with considerable technical abilities. Alexander is particularly impressed with his “double stop riffs” on the title track. But more importantly there’s a warmth about Aitchison’s playing that communicates itself well to less knowledgeable listeners plus Green’s elegant and economical solos also have an appealing fluency. With strong contributions from Moylan, particularly his stunning arco feature on “Stars Fell On Alabama”, and the ever reliable Kelbie the album is a very worthy edition to the Lejazzetal catalogue.
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