by Ian Mann
September 24, 2012
An excellent reminder of the skills of one of Bristol's most significant and best loved jazz talents.
“Cross My Palm”
(Ooh-Err Records Oor-Err 006)
Trumpeter and composer Andy Hague is one of the stalwarts of the Bristol Jazz scene. He is also a talented drummer and is due to perform in this capacity as a member of pianist John Law’s trio on selected dates on Law’s forthcoming UK tour. In addition Hague is an acclaimed educator, teaching at numerous summer schools and running a community big band. As a session musician he has worked with one of Bristol’s biggest musical exports, legendary “trip hop” exponents Portishead.
However Hague is best known as a highly accomplished trumpeter with his roots in hard bop who has recorded three previous albums as a leader. The title “Cross My Palm” represents a reference to pianist and composer Horace Silver, one of Hague’s primary influences and the new album also pays homage to Hague’s numerous trumpet heroes, among them Kenny Dorham, Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Wheeler and Dave Douglas.
Hague’s quintet is a popular and long lived unit. I saw them give a highly accomplished and entertaining performance as part of the all day jazz festival celebrating the refurbishment of Bristol’s Colston Hall back in 2009. The current line up includes musicians with national reputations and consists of Ben Waghorn on tenor and alto saxes, Jim Blomfield on piano, Will Harris on double bass and Mark Whitlam at the drums. The core quintet is augmented on some pieces by guest performers Brigitte Beraha (vocals) and get The Blessing’s Jake McMurchie (tenor sax).
Hague’s informative liner notes shed light on the inspirations behind this entertaining mix of original tunes. “Cross My Palm” is an enjoyable and unpretentious album that pays unashamed homage to the jazz greats of the past but with Hague and his colleagues giving the music a very personal and contemporary twist as exemplified by the opening “Drip Drop”. Here the horns of Hague on trumpet and Waghorn on tenor combine in a catchy hook above Whitlam’s busy hip hop grooves. There’s also a kind of old style funkiness that prompts Hague to make comparisons with the music of the Brecker Brothers. The piece is an invigorating opener with Waghorn on muscular tenor, Hague on lithe, agile trumpet and the lively Blomfield at the piano the featured soloists.
“Darkness” varies the mood, a waltz time tune with a modal opening as Hague draws inspiration from the writing and playing of the great Kenny Wheeler. Blomfield is more lyrical and expansive here and shares the soloing with Hague and Waghorn, the saxophonist adding greater pace and urgency as the tune progresses.
Waghorn switches to alto and McMurchie comes in on tenor as the group becomes a sextet for “The Boss”, Hague’s tribute to Wynton Marsalis (Marcus Printup, trumpeter with Marsalis’ Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra often refers to his employer as “The Boss”). Inspired by Marsalis’ album “He And She” the tune is a confident strut with a great groove and bright solos from both saxophonists plus Hague on trumpet and Blomfield at the piano. Conventionally structured it also includes enjoyable features for Harris and Whitlam.
For “Tranquil Moment” the group is joined by London based vocalist Brigitte Bereha on a Cuban style ballad. In addition to singing Hague’s reflective lyrics the flexible Beraha adds convincing wordless vocals to the relaxed instrumental solos by Hague and Blomfield as Harris and Whitlam add a gently propulsive Latin groove.
The Latin feel continues into the title track, a buoyant piece written in 5/4 in the style of Horace Silver. Recorded live at the Bristol venue the Be-Bop Club (of which Hague was once the proprietor) this could almost BE a Horace Silver tune. Sparkling solos come from Blomfield, Hague and Waghorn as Harris and Whitlam again lay down an immaculate Latin groove.
Recorded the same night at the same venue “For Kenny Dorham” is Hague’s tribute to the long departed trumpeter and was inspired by the Dorham tune “Sao Paulo”, a piece which the quintet sometimes also perform. Hague’s tune is a celebration rather than a lament, and features rich unison horn lines plus eloquent and expansive solos from Hague, Waghorn and Blomfield above the characteristically colourful and swinging grooves of Harris and Whitlam.
With “Green Leaf” Hague pays homage to a more contemporary trumpet star, the innovative New York based Dave Douglas. Named after Douglas’ record label Hagues’ tune is inspired by the Douglas piece “Blue Heaven” and is the lengthiest track on the album. Based around a series of triads and a strong bass groove the piece features the group in sextet mode with Waghorn again moving to alto and McMurchie returning on tenor. The ten minute duration gives everybody room to stretch out with joyous, powerful solos coming from all three horns plus Blomfield at the piano. Whitlam’s colourful, rolling drum feature above cushioning horns and piano comes as an unexpected highlight.
“Hands Up” is Hague’s attempt at a New Orleans type tune in which he aims at a “front line” feel. Refreshingly self deprecating he warns potential listeners that the catchy hook may remind some of them of the Benny Hill theme tune! Be that as it may (and he does have a point) the tune itself is tremendously invigorating and great fun with punchy, fiery horn solos and great interplay between the instruments above a busy and infectious New Orleans shuffle style groove. Sure to be a live favourite I would think.
One piece that Hague does confirm as being a regular live item is “Lost & Found” which frequently concludes the quintet’s performances. Hague’s theme bears more than a passing similarity to Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia” and the trumpeter explains that when he first wrote it in 2006 he felt it was too derivative to perform. Five years later he rediscovered it and this time round it proved a popular addition to the group’s repertoire offering the opportunity for bright, punchy, powerful soloing from Hague, Waghorn and Blomfield above a furiously propulsive groove, the whole thing climaxed with a set of hugely entertaining drum breaks from the consistently excellent Whitlam.
The album ends with an alternate take of “Tranquil Moment”, a “Radio Edit” reprising Beraha’s vocal and introducing a warm Waghorn tenor solo not heard on the previous version.
“Cross My Palm” is a consistently entertaining album which features some superb playing from all the members of the ensemble. Lovingly recorded and mixed by Hague (even the live tracks sound great) the sound quality is excellent throughout and ensures that everybody is heard at their best. There is nothing strikingly original here, and Hague wouldn’t claim otherwise, but there is still much for the listener to enjoy, devotees of the Blue Note sound will be particularly appreciative. Most of Hague’s live appearances inevitably take place in the South West but I’d advise anybody reading this to take the opportunity of seeing his group live if you can. From my experience this is a band that’s guaranteed to deliver . “Cross My Palm” is an excellent reminder of the skills of one of Bristol’s most significant and best loved jazz talents.blog comments powered by Disqus