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Holy Island

by Ian Mann

September 16, 2001


An interesting, mainly jazz based offering from this Birmingham based saxophonist and his colleagues on the Midlands scene

Beebe is the name adopted by Midlands based saxophonist Chris Aldridge. Besides being an accomplished jazz player he has also worked in the pop and rock fields and his later albums have seen him incorporating funk and hip hop elements into his music.

The own label"Holy Island” was recorded in 2001 and is essentially a jazz record featuring many leading players on the Midlands scene. The core quintet consists of Beebe on saxes (predominately alto) and flute, Dave Lowe on guitars, Tim Amann (a band leader in his own right) on keyboards with Roger Inniss on electric bass and Carl Hemmingsley at the drums.  There is a guest appearance from the brilliant trumpeter Bryan Corbett and Graham Dee provides vocals. 

Beebe is a powerful player with strong r’n'b inflections in his playing. However the opening “Mr Spoon” is a spirited bebop inspired number with racing saxophone lines underpinned by Inniss’ springy electric bass. There are also lively solos from Amann and Lowe.

“Holy Island” itself is moody and atmospheric with brooding saxophone and liquid electric bass.

“The Elegant” is well named as it features the elegant tones of Mr Corbett both solo and in tandem with Beebe. It’s a Latin inspired piece with a strong theme and is one of the album highlights. There’s a good percussive piano solo from Amann, too.

“Prelude” is a short, atmospheric passage for solo saxophone that provides the bridge into “2 Mislay” a melancholy song featuring Lowe’s acoustic guitar and Graham Dee’s wistful vocal.

“Don’t Ben Me Up” is a return to r’n'b/funk territory underpinned by Hemmingsley’s sturdy back beat. There is soulful sax from Beebe and rock style guitar from Lowe with the two trading licks in a display of good,unpretentious fun. 

“La Charite Sur Loire” is a little more subdued with several shifts of mood and tempo but there is still some full on soloing from the leader. Amann also features prominently.

The appropriately eerie “The Witches” features Beebe’s breathy flute alongside Inniss’ articulate electric bass and Amann’s sometimes glacial piano.

These three (with Beebe back on sax) also feature on the breezy, bebop inspired “Wop Up” .They clearly enjoy tackling the tricky theme with Amann taking solo flight mid tune.

“Reflections” marks the return of Corbett on muted trumpet and there is also what at first sounds uncannily like a vibes solo, presumably simulated courtesy of Amann’s keyboards.

The closing “The Voice Within” is a short feature for flute, a nod in the direction of one of Beebe’s heroes the late, great Roland Kirk.

But that isn’t quite all.“So Late” is not so secret “secret track”. Another song it features Dee on vocals over a gentle hip hop groove hinting at Beebe’s future direction.

Taken as a whole “Holy Island” is a pretty decent offering with some interesting writing and quality playing particularly from Beebe himself. He mixes the moods and styles together well to create a balanced and well paced programme. The presence of Corbett, albeit only in a limited capacity is a considerable bonus.

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