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James Chadwick Trio

Inside Out

by Ian Mann

May 27, 2024


Chadwick has developed his own signature style on the guitar and this album sees him honing that approach in the company of two very capable and sympathetic collaborators.

James Chadwick Trio

“Inside Out”

(33 Jazz 33jAZZ303)

James Chadwick – guitar, Henrik Jensen – double bass, Mark Whitlam – drums

“Inside Out” is Cardiff based guitarist and composer James Chadwick’s third album release for the 33 Jazz imprint and features his regular trio with bassist Henrik Jensen and drummer Mark Whitlam, two of the leading figures on the jazz scene in the English West Country.

Chadwick is a musician who has been on my radar for a long time, dating back to the days in the early 2000s when he used to perform at the popular Saturday Cafe lunchtime events at Hereford’s Courtyard Arts Centre.

Many of his local gigs have featured him playing well known jazz and bebop standards in the company of other leading local musicians including bassist Erica Lyons, trumpeter Ben Thomas and multi-instrumentalist Lee Goodall.

Other musicians with whom he has worked include vocalists Jane Williams and Tara Lowe, saxophonists Jake McMurchie, Frank Griffith and Deborah Glenister, bassists Aeddan Williams, Paula Gardiner and Ashley John Long and drummer Rod Oughton.

More recent alliances have included his guitar duo with the American jazz guitarist John Stowell. This line up performed a successful show at Brecon Jazz Club in November 2023, which is reviewed, albeit somewhat vicariously, here;

Chadwick is also the co-leader, with pianist Julian Martin, of J4, a Cardiff based quartet specialising in jazz adaptations of Beatles tunes with Martin and Chadwick sharing the arranging duties. The line up is completed by bassist Don Sweeney and drummer Ian Williams. The band made a successful appearance at the 2022 Brecon Jazz Festival and this performance, combined with a look at the “J4” album, can be found here;

Chadwick’s two earlier albums for 33 Jazz have placed the focus on the guitarist’s original compositions. “Undercurrent” dates back to 2002 and still represents an engaging listening experience. “Wacahume” was released in 2011 and is reviewed here.

The personnel on these albums includes such well known musicians as bassists Andy Hamill and Jerome Davies and drummers Tom Hooper, Dave Ohm and Martin France. Adrian Fry guests on trombone and also co-produces “Undercurrent”. Lee Goodall contributes both drums and alto sax to “Wacahume” as well as acting as engineer and producer. Both recordings are very enjoyable and reveal Chadwick to be a thoughtful guitarist and composer, a musician who eschews flashy runs and show off tendencies, but who plays with a quiet intelligence that is ultimately highly distinctive.

Chadwick’s current trio features the Danish born bassist Henrik Jensen, who made his name on the London jazz scene before moving to Frome in Somerset. A bandleader and composer in his own right Jensen led his own group Followed by Thirteen and was part of the co-operative New Simplicity Trio alongside pianist Bruno Heinen and drummer Antonio Fusco. Jensen has also worked in a duo with the German saxophonist Peter Ehwald.

Since moving to Somerset Jensen’s talents have been much in demand both in the English West Country and in South Wales. Musicians he has worked with during his career include include pianists Will Butterfield and John Law, trumpeter Andy Hague, saxophonists Iain Ballamy and Michael Blake,  guitarists Hannes Reipler and Steve Banks, drummer Gene Calderazzo and vocalists Victoria Klewin and Elizabeth Shepherd.

Drummer Mark Whitlam has worked extensively on the Bristol and West Country music scenes performing with musicians of the calibre of vocalists Claire Martin and Clare Teal, trumpeters Andy Hague and Nick Malcolm, saxophonists Andy Sheppard, Kevin Figes, Iain Ballamy, Pee Wee Ellis and Pete Canter, bassist Greg Cordez, pianists Jason Rebello and Jim Blomfield and guitarists Jim Mullen and Steve Banks. He has also been a member of the very different bands Moonlight Saving Time, Balanca and Michelson Morley, the last named led by Get The Blessing saxophonist Jake McMurchie.

The ten pieces on “Inside Out” are split equally between Chadwick’s original compositions and an eclectic mix of outside material, the latter comprised of three ‘great American Songbook’ standards, a Steve Swallow composition and Chadwick’s beautiful arrangement of the traditional Welsh hymn tune “Calon Lan”.

The album commences with the standard “I Remember April”, written by Gene de Paul. Introduced by Whitlam’s brushed drums it represents an intimate and unhurried musical conversation between the three instrumentalists, with Chadwick’s thoughtful guitar style gradually coming to the fore. The trio is a finely balanced unit that allows space for the individual performers, whilst also allowing the music itself room to breathe.

The first Chadwick original is the title track, another thoughtful and spacious three way discussion, but this time more loosely structured and with the three participants functioning very much as equals. Again Whitlam primarily deploys brushes, but there are spikier moments when the surface of the water gets ruffled. There have been occasions when the title of this tune / album has been used a band name with the group sometimes credited as the James Chadwick Inside Out Trio.

Also from the pen of Chadwick “Lola” finds the guitarist sounding a little like Bill Frisell as he solos above a walking bass and brushed drum groove. There’s definitely something of a country / American twang alongside the bebop inspired runs and chords. This piece also features the excellent Jensen as a soloist for the first time with a dexterous and articulate bass feature underpinned by Chadwick’s sympathetic chording and Whitlam’s deft brushwork.

“Falling Grace”, written by the American bassist and composer Steve Swallow, has become something of a modern jazz standard, a tune loved by guitarists and pianists alike. Indeed it was performed by the Chadwick / Stowell duo at that November 2023 performance at Brecon Jazz Club.
The Chadwick Trio approach it in typically thoughtful fashion with a leisurely exploration of the inner architecture of the tune with the leader’s elegant, softly probing guitar lines augmented by Jensen’s resonant, grounding bass and Whitlam’s exquisite drum and cymbal work. Jensen again emerges as a fluent soloist, supported by Chadwick’s sympathetic chording and Whitlam’s succinct drum commentary.

Chadwick’s beautiful arrangement of the Welsh hymn tune “Calon Lan” has been a feature of his live performances for some time. It is introduced by a passage of unaccompanied guitar, with Chadwick later joined by the sounds of double bass and brushed drums. The trio’s performance is typically relaxed and thoughtful and brings out the full beauty of the familiar and memorable melody. Jensen steps forward to deliver a delightfully melodic double bass solo while Whitlam is again a model of good taste as his delicate brushwork gently enhances the performance.

Chadwick dedicates his original composition “Beetroot to Me” to Lee Goodall, who apparently came up with the frankly awful title! Sorry, Lee. It’s a typically leisurely ramble through the proverbial vegetable patch with the solos shared between the composer and the admirable Jensen as Whitlam adds a typically tasteful drum commentary.  He’s very much a colourist behind the kit.

A second dedication comes with “Moments”, a piece that Chadwick explains “was written for my mother, who is in the later stages of dementia, and this tune was written while she stayed with us during lockdown”.
There’s almost a martial feel to Whitlam’s drumming as he and Jensen combine to complement Chadwick’s guitar soloing. The piece also includes the first real drum feature on the record.

Here’s a return to the standards repertoire for Henry Mancini’s “Days of Wine and Roses”, which is introduced by a passage of unaccompanied guitar, with Chadwick eventually joined in dialogue by Whitlam’s filigree cymbal work. The addition of double bass sees the trio embark on a typically thoughtful exploration of this familiar tune with Jensen sharing the solos with Chadwick.

In August 2022 Chadwick appeared at that year’s Brecon Jazz Festival leading a trio featuring Whitlam and bassist Ashley John Long, with guest saxophonist Deborah Glenister also appearing on some numbers. At the time I observed;
“It’s probably fair to say that Chadwick’s intelligent, refreshingly cliché free arrangements take even the most familiar of tunes in directions that you don’t really expect them to go in. It’s a good quality to have. “
That statement also holds true for the trio’s approach to the standard material on this album, and particularly the trio’s treatment of the Cole Porter song “Night and Day”, which emerges out of a subdued, but still edgy, intro featuring the sounds of guitar, bass and drums. The trio improvise at length with some of their most dark hued playing of the set, the music exhibiting something of a noirish quality, very much in keeping with the darkness inherent in Porter’s lyrics. It takes a while for the familiar melody emerge and even then it’s disguised fairly heavily. This is the trio’s most radical treatment of a standard, with Jensen again emerging from the shadows to feature as a soloist.

“No Politics” is a Chadwick original that first appeared on the “Undercurrent” album and which has been in his live repertoire ever since. Apparently the title relates to office politics rather than party politics, but with an election coming up…
The 2024 version is an attractive interpretation played in waltz time and incorporating features for bass and (briefly) drums.

It’s been a long time since the release of “Wacahume” so this new James Chadwick album is very welcome. It consolidates Chadwick’s reputation as an intelligent and thoughtful composer and arranger and a guitarist with a refreshingly individual and cliché free style, but one still rooted in the jazz tradition. In Jensen and Whitlam he has two highly skilled and empathic partners who serve the music faithfully and perform to a high level of technical ability and with admirable good taste and restraint. Whitlam’s delicately nuanced performance behind the kit is particularly impressive, while Jensen brings all his experience to bear with a fine performance at the bass.

If there’s a criticism it’s that it’s all a bit too laid back and tasteful and one occasionally wishes that Chadwick would add a few more rough edges to add a bit of dynamic and emotional contrast. In this context the darker edges and shadings on “Night and Day” are particularly welcome.

Having said that Chadwick has developed his own signature style on the guitar and this album sees him honing that approach in the company of two very capable and sympathetic collaborators. The album was recorded at Fieldgate Studios in Penarth and engineer Andrew Lawson deserves credit for a crystalline sound mix that serves Chadwick and his colleagues well.


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