by Ian Mann
March 17, 2015
A swinging, unpretentious album that finds this well balanced group breezing good naturedly through a set of much loved tunes.
Andy Derrick Jazz Quartet
Birmingham based Andy Derrick is one of the UK’s leading trombonists and his band, popularly known as the ADJQ has played at all the leading jazz venues in the Midlands as well as further afield. His playing has won the endorsement of fellow trombonists such as Mark Bassey, Mark Nightingale, Dennis Rollins and Don Lusher and as a sideman he was worked with musicians of the calibre of Joe Lovano, Toots Thielmans, Bobby Shew, Bob Florence, Alan Barnes and Georgie Fame.
A former member of both the Midland and National Youth Jazz Orchestras (MYJO & NYJO) Derrick is a versatile trombonist with the ability to play across a variety of jazz styles. I’ve also seen him play with the Shrewsbury Jazz Orchestra at a 2013 concert featuring guest vocalist Laura Collins.
The recently released “Just Friends” is his third album release as a leader and features his regular working group of Mike Kemp (piano), Tomas Pedersen (double bass) and Fred Claridge (drums). This line up also appeared on the earlier “In A Sentimental Mood”, like the new album a collection of jazz standards. A previous incarnation of the group featuring pianist Steve Tromans, bassist Dave Storer and drummer Carl Hemmingsley explored slightly funkier territory back in 2005 on the album “Fancy Goods”. Derrick has also appeared on a number of albums as a section player and as a session musician and also works as a jazz facilitator and educator.
Like its immediate predecessor the recording of “Just Friends” was financed entirely by fans of the ADJQ. The album features ten well known jazz standards and was recorded in a single day (October 19th 2014) at engineer Ian Riley’s studio in Northamptonshire. The DIY ethos even extends to the packaging, a simple brown cardboard sleeve with a typewritten insert.
Produced by Derrick himself this is a swinging, unpretentious album that finds this tightly knit group breezing good naturedly through a set of much loved tunes that were actually chosen by the group’s fans in an on line poll. Derrick immediately demonstrates his fluency as a soloist on the opening “Just Friends”, the title track being the tune that received the most votes. He’s followed by Kemp as Pedersen and Claridge provide briskly swinging support.
“Georgia” features the rich, rounded tones of the leader’s trombone on a subtly blues tinged ballad version of the song. Kemp provides sympathetic accompaniment and displays an admirable lyricism on his own solo. A rich bass undertow and gently brushed drums complete a very pretty sonic picture.
Derrick multi-tracks himself on a quirky and playful version of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan”, the layered, contrapuntal mass trombone intro eventually giving way to a Latin flavoured romp featuring the whole group.
“My Foolish Heart” offers another excellent example of the quartet’s way with a ballad with the sumptuous sound of Derrick’s trombone again complemented by Kemp’s lightness of touch at the piano and characteristically sympathetic support from Pedersen and Claridge, the latter again deploying brushes.
“Doxy” is taken at a medium,lazily swinging tempo and is full of blues inflections. Derrick’s fruity trombone solo is followed by a lively contribution from Kemp as Pedersen and Claridge provide momentum and pulse.
“My Funny Valentine” is usually a favourite for trumpeters so it’s interesting to hear the tune played on trombone. Derrick is a player who is capable of investing ballads with a good deal of emotion and he’s complemented here by Pedersen’s emotive and highly melodic bass solo.
Derrick favours a smooth, round, fluent tone - he’s emphatically not a rasper - and these qualities are again heard to good effect on a gently swinging version of “Emily”. Once again it’s an excellent group performance by a very well balanced quartet although it seems to fade out rather abruptly.
Derrick picks up the bass trombone to add weight and gravitas to Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight”. He exhibits an astonishing fluency on the even bigger horn and the recording of this track seems to have become a particular favourite among his loyal fans.
A relaxed but breezy version of “The Way You look Tonight” features some excellent interplay between Derrick and Kemp and yet more fluent and imaginative soloing from the leader allied to typically sympathetic accompaniment.
The enduringly popular “Take The ‘A’ Train” rounds off the programme, a briskly swinging excursion with a particularly exuberant solo from Derrick and a similarly joyous outing from Kemp.
Claridge’s sizzling cymbals keep things moving throughout and he also enjoys a series of brief drum breaks.
Derrick describes his quartet’s music as being “too modern for trad, too mainstream for modern” which seems to sum up his approach nicely. His imaginative arrangements breathe new life into these old chestnuts and the playing, particularly by the leader, is excellent throughout. I found much to enjoy here, even though I usually prefer my jazz to be rather more contemporary and with a greater focus on original material.
The ADJQ is a very well balanced group and on the evidence of this recording I’d surmise that they’re also a hugely enjoyable live act. This is an album that can readily be recommended to virtually all jazz listeners, especially as part of the proceeds from the album sales will be going to a very worthy cause as Andy Derrick explains below;
The price is £10 plus £1.95 postage and packing and £1 from every copy sold will be donated to Cancer Research UK. It is available for purchase via Paypal from http://www.andyderrickjazzquartet.com
You can also download via iTunes or listen to the entire album online by visiting Spotify
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