by Ian Mann
June 12, 2020
This is a trio that has gigged extensively over the course of the last five years and this is reflected in the playing, an almost perfect blend of discipline and looseness.
Dave Storey Trio
(Impossible Ark Records 026)
Dave Storey – drums, James Allsopp – tenor saxophone, Conor Chaplin – double bass
“Jouska” is the second album by this trio led by London based drummer and composer Dave Storey.
It follows 2019’s “Bosco”, recorded by the same line up and reviewed here;
Storey studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London where his drum tutors included such influential musicians as Martin France, Tim Giles, Mark Sanders, Gene Calderazzo and Jim Hart. Since completing his Masters he has become a busy presence on the London jazz scene, performing regularly at clubs such as Ronnie Scott’s, Kansas Smitty’s, The Vortex and the 606.
As an in demand sideman Storey has appeared on the Jazzmann web pages on numerous occasions performing with band leaders such as saxophonists Tom Barford and Tom Smith and pianists Tom Millar and Sam Leak. He is also a member of trombonist Olli Martin’s quintet and of Moostak Trio, led by guitarist Harry Christelis.
“Bosco” was a “saxophone trio” recording that drew unashamedly on the jazz tradition and which borrowed from the legacy of Sonny Rollins’ classic recordings in the same instrumental format. Other touchstones included the bebop of Charlie Parker and the later experiments of John Coltrane, with all these influences filtered through a contemporary jazz prism.
“Jouska” takes its title from an entry in John Koenig’s “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows”, a work comprised of invented neologisms designed to “fill holes in language”. It is a phrase meaning “a hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head”.
In such an intimate setting conversation is an integral part of the trio’s music making as Storey, Allsopp and Chaplin continue to hone the finely balanced rapport that they established on their début. This is a trio that has gigged extensively over the course of the last five years and this is reflected in the playing, an almost perfect blend of discipline and looseness. Unfortunately it would appear likely that all the gigs on a UK tour organised in support of this new album will now be postponed due to the Corona Virus pandemic.
“Jouska” was recorded in October 2019 at Fish Factory Studios in London with the musician Benedic Lamdin engineering. The album was recorded “straight to tape” with no editing or overdubbing – essentially a live performance in the studio.
The programme includes five original tunes by Allsopp and a further three by Storey. The album includes a single cover, a version of Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge”. The trio clearly share a fascination for Strayhorn’s music, “Bosco” included an arrangement of the same composer’s “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing”.
The album gets off to an invigorating start with Allsopp’s “Green Monkey”, an energetic Rollins-esque piece that features the composer’s fluent sax riding Chaplin’s vigorous bass walk and Storey’s fluid and supple drumming. There’s been a tendency to think of Chaplin as something of an electric bass specialist in the wake of his work with bands such as WorldService Project, Flying Machines and Dinosaur, but he’s equally adept on the upright acoustic version of the instrument as his playing here attests, whether driving the band or stepping into the spotlight as a soloist. On an opening piece that serves as an introduction to the individual instrumental voices of the band the leader is also featured with a series of sparky, colourful drum breaks.
Storey’s own “Bibi” draws inspiration from Billy Strayhorn and features Allsopp’s warm, melodious tenor floating gently above a supple, understated 6/4 groove. The excellent Chaplin is again afforded a generous amount of space as a soloist, and utilises it to the full.
Strayhorn himself is represented by a delightful version of the enduring ballad “Chelsea Bridge”. Allsopp plays with great sensitivity and reveals himself to be an expert interpreter of a ballad. Chaplin and Storey provide delicately nuanced support, with the leader’s subtle brushwork particularly worthy of note.
Next up is Allsopp’s composition “Wooden Hats”, the title inspired by a night out in a Dartmoor pub, presumably one with very low ceilings. This sees the trio upping the energy levels once more and represents a return to broadly Rollins-esque territory, with Allsopp stretching out more forcefully above a bustling, polyrhythmic bass and drum groove. The busy Storey is featured in a series of colourful drum breaks as he locks horns with the saxophonist.
Allsopp is also the composer of the more reflective “Forest Far From Home”, a piece inspired by the gentler side of John Coltrane with the saxophonist sketching Trane like harmonies above Chaplin’s undulating bass walk and Storey’s deft deployment of a combination of brushes and sticks.
Also by Allsopp “Gravel Baron” was released as a single and is described as a dedication to a fictional “aggregate-hoarding billionaire”. Musically speaking it represents a ‘long form blues’ that allows its composer to stretch out at length on tenor and engage in series of vigorous exchanges with the leader’s drums. Chaplin also features with a double bass solo that merges the twin virtues of melody and swing.
The saxophonist’s final offering with the pen is a tune inspired by the trio’s touring experiences. “The Viceroy” is named for an institution that the group regard as being “Birmingham’s best curry house”. Introduced by the leader at the drums the piece features the airy melodies of Allsopp’s tenor above an alternately loping and swinging groove.
A more extended drum intro ushers in Storey’s own “Con Dao”, an attractive Latin tinged piece with Allsopp’s tenor weaving its way melodically between the colourful bass and drum grooves, with Storey’s polyrhythmic flow subtly leading the way. As the performance progresses Allsopp’s sax takes on a harder edged tone as he probes more deeply.
The album concludes with Storey’s title track, which combines a supple swing with subtle world jazz influences. Chaplin’s earthy bass is at its core, underpinning the piece and stepping out of the shadows to solo. His grounding presence allows Allsopp the chance to stretch out and soar on tenor and gives Storey the licence to provide colour as well as rhythm. Appropriately the composer and leader is also featured in a succinct solo drum interlude.
At the time of the release of “Bosco” the trio described their musical approach thus;
“the music reflects reverence and respect of the jazz tradition without ever being beholden to its dogma, which results in music that feels unpretentious but never throwaway or without considerable weight”.
“Jouska” doesn’t represent any radical change in the trio’s methods as they remain true to their mission statement and continue to fine tune their approach. The standard of the playing and the levels of interaction maintain the high standards set by the début and the trio’s shared love for this particular strand of jazz shines brightly throughout.
By its own admission this isn’t music that attempts to break boundaries or challenge traditions, although all the members of the group have made more challenging and contemporary sounding music elsewhere, including Allsopp’s Fraud and Golden Age of Steam groups.
The music of “Jouska” remains firmly within the jazz tradition with the members of the trio bringing a youthful joyousness and a finely nuanced contemporary slant to the material. Although far from radical it is eminently enjoyable and the high levels of rapport and connectivity between the three members also ensure that it is consistently interesting and absorbing.
As I remarked at the time of “Bosco” one suspects that the trio are also an exciting and highly enjoyable live proposition. Unfortunately almost all the dates on the scheduled tour in support of “Jouska” have been cancelled with just three currently remaining, and which are likely to suffer the same fate. These are;
June 20 – Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham
July 12 – Eagle Tavern, Rochester
July 12 – First In, Last Out, Hastings
“Jouska” is available via http://www.davestorey.orgblog comments powered by Disqus