by Ian Mann
March 03, 2021
Naylor has developed a distinctive instrumental and compositional voice of his own and his intelligent writing and playing helps to give this recording much of its character.
(Beeboss Records BBCD2030)
Patrick Naylor – guitar, David Beebee – piano, Ian East – saxophone, Jakub Cywinski – double bass, Milo Fell – drums
plus Julian Costello – soprano sax (tracks 2 & 6)
“Winter Dream” is the fourth album release as a leader by the London based guitarist, composer, bandleader and educator Patrick Naylor.
It follows “Afternoon Moon” (2003), Brasil Universo” (2007) and “Days of Blue” (2015). All of these albums, plus this latest release, are available from Naylor’s Bandcamp page https://patricknaylor.bandcamp.com/music and also from Spotify and other digital stores.
In addition to leading his own bands, usually in the quartet or quintet formats, Naylor is also part of the group The Gypsy Dreamers, featuring Natalie Rozario (cello, vocals), Una Palliser (violin, vocals) and Thierry Deneux (percussion, vocals).
Together with fellow guitarist Tim Robinson he also co-leads the gypsy jazz group Viper’s Dream, with whom he has recorded three albums. A fluid line up has included Alex Keen (double bass), Sara Mitra (vocals), Daniel Teper (accordion) and Richie Howard (clarinet).
Naylor and Teper have also written extensively for TV, radio and film, while Naylor also enjoys a career as an educator, running guitar classes and workshops and teaching guitar at St. Paul’s Cathedral School.
“Winter Dream” features several of Naylor’s long-standing collaborators. Pianist David Beebee, saxophonist Ian East and drummer Milo Fell all appeared on “Days of Blue”, alongside a number of other vocalists and instrumentalists. They were also present and correct on both “Brasil Universo” and “Afternoon Moon” too.
Whereas “Days of Blue” featured an expanded line up including many of the other musicians mentioned elsewhere in this article (Rozario, Mitra, Keen, Teper), plus vocalist Stephanie O’Brien and drummer Sophie Alloway, the new album features Naylor’s regular working quintet. Julian Costello, another regular associate, adds the distinctive sound of his soprano saxophone to two tracks.
“Winter Dream” places the focus on original composition with seven pieces from the pen of Naylor, one from Beebee, plus a further joint collaboration. The album was recorded at Beebee’s own Beeboss Studios in Seaford, East Sussex with the pianist also carrying out engineering and production duties. A review of Beebee’s own excellent quartet album, recorded at the same location and released in 2020 can be viewed here;
The “Winter Dream” album commences with the leader’s composition “Where Are My Glasses?”, the title a familiar cry that frequently emanates from those of us of a certain age. However despite the note of panic implicit in the title the music is pleasantly laid back and languid, characterised by the mellow timbres of Naylor’s guitar and East’s tenor, plus the soft patter of Fell’s brushes. The first solo of the set goes to the Polish born bassist Cywinski, who so impressed on Beebee’s quartet album. Cywinski’s delightfully melodic double bass solo is followed by a fluent excursion from East on subtly probing tenor.
“Satori” (not to be confused with saxophonist Josephine Davies’ trio of the same name) was written in memory of Satori Hama, a former guitar student of Naylor’s. The piece is introduced by Beebee at the piano, soon joined in a concise pointillist duet with Naylor’s guitar. As the music develops Costello’s airy soprano sax comes to the fore, lithely dancing above the delicate rhythms laid down by Beebee, Cywinski and Fell. There’s also a delightfully fluid guitar solo from Naylor and the first solo of the set from the impressive Beebee at the piano. As on the opener the focus is very much on melody and the piece represents a beautiful tribute to the late Hama.
The title track is a ballad that perfectly encapsulates the fragile and chilly beauty of the winter season. Naylor’s unaccompanied guitar introduces the piece, his sound glacial and Frisell like, contrasting neatly with the warmer tones of East’s tenor, reminiscent perhaps of relaxing by the fireside whilst staring out at the winter landscape. Naylor’s chilly lyricism continues through his guitar solo. Beebee’s solo also finds the pianist at his most lyrical, while Fell’s delicate, subtly detailed brushwork is a delight throughout.
“Do I Know You?” introduces an appropriate air of mystery into the music. More sombre than much of what has gone before there’s an edgy quality about the arrangement, encouraged by Fell’s atmospheric and inventive use of percussion. Naylor’s guitar solo introduces elements of bluesiness and the subtle use of distortion effects as his playing becomes more feverish and unsettling. Beebee makes use of electric piano sounds and Fell is featured more extensively as he circumnavigates his kit, his percussive explorations underpinned by a recurrent guitar / bass motif.
The contemporary jazz waltz “Almost Through” revisits the chilly beauty of the title track in the form of an extended duet between Naylor and Beebee, before opening out to incorporate sax, bass and brushed drums. Naylor’s subsequent electric guitar solo exhibits a delicately controlled intensity.
According to Naylor “Tory Drug Off” represents “a musical depiction of the bizarre spectacle of Tory leadership candidates vying to outdo each other in admitting to drug taking in 2019.” The album was recorded just before the pandemic, so it will be interesting to hear Naylor’s musical response to the government’s handling of the Covid crisis, particularly from the point of view of a professional musician.
However, I digress, so back to the business in hand with the heaviest track on the album as Naylor cranks his amps up for a spiralling guitar solo underpinned by Fell’s powerful drumming. Costello also weighs in on squiggling soprano sax, his sinuous solo introducing something of an Eastern element to the music. Guitar and soprano subsequently intertwine in thrilling, visceral fashion before Fell again features at the kit, his excursions underpinned by some chunky riffing. There’s an anger, urgency and energy about this track that is more reminiscent of New York City than rural Sussex.
“Winter Space” was jointly written by Naylor and Beebee and offers a total contrast. This is an impressionistic, ambient guitar and keyboard duet, possibly wholly improvised, that features the use of live looping techniques. The music is suggestive of the icy beauty of both winter and space, so the title is particularly apposite.
Beebee takes the solo writing credit for “B For Blues”, which combines conventional jazz virtues with a more contemporary rhythmic approach and provides the opportunity for fluent and expansive solos from East on tenor, the composer at the piano, the leader on guitar and the consistently impressive Fell at the kit.
An unaccompanied double bass introduction from the similarly impressive Cywinski ushers in the final track, Naylor’s “Rugby Street”. East’s saxophone states the uplifting theme before handing over to the composer’s guitar for the first solo. Beebee follows at the piano before East returns to restate the theme.
“Winter Dream” represents an impressive statement from Naylor. Obviously a highly skilled guitarist his playing has been compared to that of Bill Frisell and Ralph Towner, but he rarely sounds like either of these. Instead Naylor has developed a distinctive instrumental and compositional voice of his own and his intelligent writing and playing helps to give this recording much of its character.
On hearing the first three tracks, lovely as they are, I feared that the album might ultimately become a little one-paced and ‘bloodless’ - but on pieces like “Do I Know You?”, “Tory Drug Out” and “Winter Space” Naylor introduces stylistic and dynamic variants that complement his core values of lyricism and melodicism and help to add variety and interest to the recording.
Everybody performs well and the quintet is a particularly well balanced unit, with the rhythm section of Cywinski and Fell also given their opportunities to shine. As with Beebee’s own quartet album the quality of the recorded sound also helps to enhance the quality of the writing and the playing with every nuance faithfully captured.
Well done to everybody concerned.
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