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Allan Ganley Quartet

Live: The Station

by Ian Mann

May 17, 2006


This is a well programmed and flawlessly played session with the added frisson of live performance.

For a number of years now the Jagz Club at The Station, Ascot has been running popular Sunday lunchtime jazz sessions. The Station has now started a branch line-it’s own record label featuring live recordings made at the club.

The music to be heard here was recorded on 14th January 2001 and features an all-star band led by veteran drummer Allan Ganley. A professional musician for over fifty years Ganley has played with British greats like John Dankworth and Tubby Hayes and with international stars such as Stan Getz, Jim Hall and Stephane Grappelli.

Ganley’s colleagues here represent something of a “Who’s Who” of British jazz. The incomparable bassist Dave Green joins Ganley in the rhythm section with guitarist Dave Cliff sharing front line duties with alto saxophonist Geoff Simkins.
The quartet tackle a varied programme featuring four standards, three be-bop tunes by the late, great Charlie Parker and an original by Dave Cliff.

Parker’s twisting, turning compositions provide a great showcase for Simkins’ alto and he and the rest of the band handle this tricky material with considerable aplomb. However it is Simkins’ sympathetic reading of the ballad material that is the revelation here. His lyrical playing on “How Deep Is The Ocean” and “Goodbye” is superb. I’ve seen Simkins on numerous occasions over the years in a variety of line-ups, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard him play as well as he does on this album.

His front line partner Cliff is also excellent throughout. Cliff’s lightning runs on the Parker material such as “Anthropology” contrast nicely with his cool and conversational playing on the ballads His unhurried composition “The Right Time” is as good as anything else on the record and contains yet more fine soloing from the composer plus Green and Simkins.

Dave Green is arguably Britain’s number one bass player. He is equally at home with all types of jazz from the mainstream to the ultra modern and is first call for British legend Stan Tracey and for virtually every visiting American. He recently accompanied Lee Konitz at the 2006 Cheltenham Jazz Festival. His swing and timing throughout this recording is impeccable and his soloing dextrous and seemingly effortless.

Many of the same qualities are shared by the leader. Ganley swings effortlessly and seems totally relaxed and in control. But there is a sense of hidden power there too and he can still really rattle the tubs when he wants to as on the closing “Limehouse Blues”.

This is a well programmed and flawlessly played session with the added frisson of live performance. Credit should be given to the club’s excellent acoustics and to the recording engineer Dave Dog (is that his real name?!) for an excellent mix. If you were there that January afternoon this album is a fabulous memento.

For the rest of us there is still some wonderful music and playing to enjoy here. There are no great surprises and this album won’t change your world but it is still a fine example of four master craftsmen at the top of their game.

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