by Ian Mann
July 24, 2006
Quality mainstream album played by a band with a genuine zest and enthusiasm.
Pete Neighbour is a member of what seems to be something of an endangered species these days, the specialist jazz clarinettist. In the post Coltrane area the saxophone remains king and the clarinet is perceived as uncool and old fashioned, which is a great shame. Neighbour isn’t the man to bring the instrument kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but he is a superb player with a phenomenal technique, and in “Friends And Neighbour” he has produced a very enjoyable album.
Neighbour’s influences are swing era greats such as Artie Shaw and Buddy Defranco and especially Benny Goodman, the man known as “The King Of Swing”. On this album Neighbour pays homage to his heroes but in a varied programme also produces a few surprises which we’ll come to later. His collaborators on this record are mainstream veterans Ted Beament (piano) and Bobby Worth (drums) plus bassist Murray Salmon. Young singer Lorraine Craig, a former NYJO vocalist guests on a couple of numbers.
The opening number “Fine And Dandy” is an exhilarating way to kick off the album with Neighbour’s fleet fingered clarinet backed by the swinging bass of Salmon, the chattering drums of Worth and the tumbling piano of Beament. It shows off Neighbour’s chops brilliantly and the rhythm section swings like crazy. A great start.
It’s not all sound and fury though. “Lucky To Be Me” still swings but in a more relaxed, blues inflected way.
Neighbour has a fondness for the tunes of Harry Nemo, a somewhat neglected composer of the 30’s and 40’s who was based in New York City. His composition “Don’t Take Your Love From Me” is given a relaxed ballad reading by Neighbour, which brings out all the beauty of the melody.
“All I Do Is Dream Of You The Whole Day Through” is a return to the up tempo pyrotechnics of the opener and again swings mightily. Ted Beament takes the instrumental honours with a coruscating solo.
Next up is one of the surprises, a cover of Sting’s “An Englishman In New York”. This is certainly a strange choice and although there is nothing wrong with Neighbour’s bluesy clarinet I find the cod reggae groove rather irritating and as a whole the piece doesn’t really work for me.
Neighbour takes up the alto sax for T Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday” a live recording, and the first number to feature vocalist Lorraine Craig. I wasn’t sure about this one either to start with. I suspect that this is because I’m used to hearing it as a heavy urban blues sung by a guy with an electric guitar. However the power of Craig’s vocal and Neighbour’s alto plus another sterling performance from the rhythm section soon won me over.
“Until The Real Thing Comes Along” quietens things down again but still has that relaxed but swinging vibe with blues inflected solos from Beament on piano and Neighbour on clarinet.
“You Are Too Beautiful” is given a gentle ballad reading by Neighbour which emphasises the purity of his tone. Beament produces a solo in total keeping with the mood of the piece and Salmon contributes a broad and sonorous bass solo backed by an admirably restrained Worth on brushes.
“Time After Time” signals the return of Lorraine Craig and Beament again takes up the alto. This is given a pretty straight run through and is fairly undistinguished.
“Tis Autumn” is the second composition from Harry Nemo and again features the band doing that relaxed, swinging, bluesy thing they do best. Salmon’s booming bass contributes much to the groove.
“Secret Love” ups the tempo again and really swings along and gives solo space to everybody with Salmon and Worth trading ideas. Neighbour’s playing is peerless (just how does he reach that high note at the end?) and Beament’s percussive piano is also excellent.
“Portrait Of Jenny” is a gently swinging ballad in which both Neighbour and Beament again show up well.
The old Gershwin warhorse “Lady Be Good” brings the album to a swinging conclusion and is a conscious nod in the direction of Benny Goodman.
This is a quality mainstream album played by a band with a genuine zest and enthusiasm for the music. They all have great chops and can swing effortlessly.
By their own admission there’s nothing new here and when they do try something different it doesn’t really work. However, the rest of the album more than compensates for that and is highly recommended.blog comments powered by Disqus