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Ant Law & Alex Hitchcock

Same Moon In The Same World

by Ian Mann

June 27, 2023


A highly coherent and convincing piece of work that Law and Hitchcock can be justly proud of.

Ant Law & Alex Hitchcock

“Same Moon In The Same World”

(Outside In Music OIM 2223)

Ant Law – electric, acoustic & eight string guitars, Alex Hitchcock – tenor saxophone

with guests;

Joel Ross – vibraphone
Shai Maestro – piano
Linda May Han Oh – bass, vocals
Ben Williams – bass
Eric Harland, Jeff Ballard, Kendrick Scott, Sun-Mi Hong – drums
Tim Garland – bass clarinet

A rather belated look at this October 2022 release from the British duo of guitarist Ant Law and saxophonist Alex Hitchcock.

I recently saw Law perform at The Hive in Shrewsbury as part of an all star quintet led by saxophonist and composer Emma Rawicz and after the show he was kind enough to provide me with a review of copy of this album, which was recorded during the lockdown periods of 2020 and 2021.

Both Law and Hitchcock are bandleaders in their own right and both have been featured on the Jazzmann web pages on a regular basis, both on disc and in live performance. Recordings reviewed include Law’s 2018 quintet release “Life I Know” and Hitchcock’s 2021 album “Dream Band”.

They are also prolific sidemen and have worked with many of the leading musicians on the vibrant UK jazz scene, including playing alongside each other in bassist and composer Matt Ridley’s ‘Antidote’ quintet.

As alluded to previously “Same Moon In The Same World” represents the duo’s ‘lockdown album’. The cessation of live gigs forced these two busy musicians to express their restless creativity in different ways, as Law explains;
“When no artists were able to tour, everyone had more time available to record. We discovered this almost by accident. We sent demos to our favourite players in the world and were delighted to hear that they were up for recording with us.”

The music on “Same Moon In The Same World” was recorded remotely, mostly on different continents. With the exception of Sun-Mi Hong and the UK’s own Tim Garland most of the duo’s collaborators are now based in the USA, although not all of them were actually born there. This spirit of international co-operation is also expressed in the album title, which is derived from a line in the 1999 novel “Sputnik Sweetheart” by the Japanese author  Haruki Murakami -  “We’re both looking at the same moon in the same world. We’re connected to reality by the same line.”

The Murakami quote also evokes the remarkably high level of rapport that Law and Hitchcock were able to establish with their illustrious guests, with technology helping to bridge the physical distances between them.

The material on the album is primarily original with Law and Hitchcock each contributing four compositions. The only outside item is a brief arrangement of John Coltrane’s “After The Rain”.  “We felt we had to include at least one sort of standard” Law told me as he handed over the disc.

The writing places a strong focus on melody;
“I think this is one of the reasons the album is so melodically driven – we were trying to connect directly with people, rather than search and explore more abstract ideas.”

The album commences with the Hitchcock composition “Outliers”, which sees the core duo joined by a rhythm section Oh on bass and Harland at the drums. Each makes a substantial contribution to a surprisingly buoyant tune in 11/8 that develops out of Law’s recurring guitar motif and Hitchcock’s vibrant saxophone melodies. Harland’s stuttering, hip hop inspired grooves help to inspire subsequent solos from Law and Hitchcock, with Oh’s bass acting as a grounding force throughout. The drummer is featured more obviously towards the close.

Harland remains on board for Law’s funky “Haven’t Meta Yet”, an infectious, hard grooving piece that also embraces an impressive level of complexity and features the composer on eight string guitar. This appears to be performed in the trio format, although I suspect that both Law and Hitchcock have made use of overdubbing. Both are able to stretch out with compelling solos, each spurred on by Harland’s busily assertive drumming, which again exhibits a strong hip hop influence. Harland is featured more extensively this time with a dynamic drum feature in the closing stages of the piece.

Hitchcock’s “Low Glow” introduces pianist Shai Maestro and a new drummer in Jeff Ballard. As its title might suggest this is a more subdued offering, although it’s hardly lacking in energy. Hitchcock adopts a warmer sound on tenor while Ballard’s busy but subtle drumming provides the necessary forward impetus. Maestro’s piano solo embraces a flowing lyricism and there’s also a solo from an uncredited double bassist. Law’s website suggests that Jasper Hoiby plays on the album,  and although he doesn’t get a mention on the CD packaging I suspect that the mystery soloist may be him. He could well appear on some of the other tracks too, where Oh or Williams are not specifically credited.

Law’s “Third I” features the composer on acoustic guitar, he takes the first solo,  and introduces Kendrick Scott at the drums. Maestro continues on piano and delivers a thoughtfully expansive solo, followed by a similarly discursive outing from Hitchcock on tenor. Scott gives a nuanced performance at the drums, responding sympathetically to the soloists and adding a wealth of colour and detail.

“Chrysalis”, composed by Hitchcock, introduces the rhythm pairing of Ben Williams on bass and the Korean born, Amsterdam based drummer Sun-Mi Hong. Williams delivers a delightfully melodic bass solo before the co-leaders embark on an absorbing series of musical exchanges, these becoming more animated as they respond to Hong’s increasingly insistent prompting.

“Vivid” was written by Law as a feature for Oh and the composition incorporates her wordless vocals as well as her superb double bass playing. Lushly orchestrated the piece also incorporates the sounds of Joel Ross on vibraphone and Tim Garland on bass clarinet. The impressive Ross also features as a soloist, while Hong continues in the drum chair.

Hitchcock’s final contribution with the pen is “Salvo”, a more upbeat offering introduced by Scott’s drums and again featuring Ross on vibes. Ross and Hitchcock both deliver fluid and inventive solos and Scott’s colourful drumming is also featured.

Law’s haunting “Don’t Wait Too Long” is gentler and more atmospheric. It features the composer on acoustic guitar alongside Ross, Williams, Ballard and Garland. It’s an unusual instrumental configuration that works surprisingly well. The interplay between Hitchcock’s tenor and Garland’s bass clarinet is consistently absorbing and there’s a coruscating vibraphone solo from the excellent Ross.

The album concludes with the core duo and their arrangement of Coltrane’s “After The Rain”, an atmospheric and gently haunting blend of acoustic guitar, tenor saxophone and a sprinkling of judicious and effective electronica.

Hitchcock sums up the album thus;
“I think we’ve made something quite special together with this album. We couldn’t have achieved this at any other time. I think it’s extremely unlikely you will hear this combination of musicians on one record ever again.”

And, of course, he’s right. Arguably this is an album that has actually benefited from the restrictions imposed by Covid as the musicians collaborated on line to perfect these tracks, freed from the constraints of studio time and the other practicalities associated with a traditional recording session.
In normal circumstances the bringing together of such a stellar cast of musicians might have resulted in some kind of all star jam session but this album is so much more than that and is actually a highly coherent and convincing piece of work that Law and Hitchcock can be justly proud of.

“Recorded all over the world, looking at the same moon, made in the UK” proclaims the album packaging, which summarises the spirit of the project very succinctly.

Of course this is music that is too good to be just documented and subsequently forgotten about and Law and Hitchcock have subsequently assembled a quartet to perform the music live with the co-leaders joined by bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado and drummer / percussionist Ernesto Simpson.

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