Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


by Ian Mann

March 06, 2007


Relaxed but swinging. Sparkling playing throughout.

“First Light” the debut recording as a leader by pianist Frank Harrison was one of my favourite albums of 2006 and is reviewed elsewhere on this site.

“You’ve Changed” sees Harrison’s regular trio of Scottish wunderkind Aidan O’Donnell (bass) and Stephen Keogh (drums) in the company of Irish guitarist Louis Stewart. The idea for this generation spanning collaboration came from Stewart’s fellow countryman Keogh who had played with Stewart in the past.

Stewart is something of a veteran; born in 1944 he has played with great British names such as Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott and accompanied Americans of the calibre of Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan and Benny Goodman. As long ago as 1968 he won the press award as best soloist at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Keogh acts as the generational bridge between Stewart and Harrison (born 1978) and the even younger O’Donnell.

“You’ve Changed” is a more mainstream album than “First Light”. With the exception of one tune penned by Stewart the remainder of the material is comprised of standards. However the quartet bring the best out of their chosen sources with some sparkling playing.

Harrison has a wonderfully light touch at the piano that is obvious from the first notes of the album’s opening title track. Stewart’s cool, relaxed guitar lines unfold around Harrison’s piano and O’Donnell and Keogh, with brushes, offer sympathetic support. Both Stewart and Harrison solo in characteristically unhurried fashion. This is an excellent way to start the album.

The trio’s version of Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean” commences in similar vein but subsequently becomes more animated. O’Donnell’s rich bass and Keogh’s neatly energetic drumming underpin Harrison’s serpentine piano solo. O’Donnell then solos sonorously and dextrously and Keogh provides some crackling drum fills before the trio take the song out.

Stewart returns to the fold for Victor Young’s “Love Letters” which again features the precociously talented O’Donnell as a soloist. Stewart’s swinging Barney Kessel inspired guitar and Harrison’s flowing piano show up strongly and there are more inventive fills from Keogh.

Harrison is reflective on the trio’s assured ballad reading of Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes”. He receives characteristically sympathetic support from O’Donnell and Keogh with the former again soloing sensitively and fluently.

“What’s True” is an attractive composition by Stewart featuring his languid guitar together with Harrison’s assured piano and Keogh’s inventive touch on the cymbals.

The Jimmy Van Heusen standard “Like Someone In Love” maintains the high standards with quality soloing not only from both front line instrumentalists but also from O’Donnell. The relaxed, swinging mood is in character with the rest of the album.

A stately trio version of Jimmy Rowles’ beautiful tune “The Peacocks” closes the album. Harrison’s limpid piano is supported by the rich pulse of O’Donnell’s bass and Keogh’s shimmering cymbals.

Like ” First Light” the album was recorded in Italy to the highest technical standards with Andrew Tulloch again engineering. The album was co-produced by Keogh and Harrison.

Musically the standards are equally impeccable with wonderful playing and consistently interesting soloing from all involved. There is a marvellous feeling of relaxation throughout the album and a cool sense of swing. It is a different type of album to “First Light” but is none the less enjoyable for that and shows what a versatile player Frank Harrison has become. His solo projects are certainly very different to his work with Gilad Atzmon and suggest that he will be a major figure on the British scene for many years to come.

This is the first release on Ian Mclaren’s Desert Island Jazz Promotions label. It is an auspicious beginning.

blog comments powered by Disqus