Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Philip Clouts Quartet

Sennen Cove


by Ian Mann

May 19, 2010


Clouts covers an impressive range of styles in an infectiously enjoyable manner. Bearing in mind it's coastal theme you could do a lot worse than making this the soundtrack for your summer.

Philip Clouts Quartet

“Sennen Cove”

(Point Records PCD025)

Pianist Philip Clouts is an unusual figure on the UK jazz scene, a nationally known musician who has chosen not to base himself in London. Clouts now lives in rural Dorset and his new album is in part inspired by the beauty of the coastline of South West England.

Born in South Africa Clouts has lived in the UK since early childhood but elements of Africa still permeate his music. Clouts is probably best known for his work with the long running band Zubop a popular London based jazz/roots combo with a particular affinity for the music of Gambia. The group made a series of enjoyable albums for the 33 Records label and I remember seeing and enjoying them live back in the day (Ludlow Assembly Rooms, 30th January 2003). I remember if Philip still remembers that one.

Clouts was always one of Zubop’s main writers and his compositional skills come to the fore on this new quartet record which comprises of ten original compositions. The mood is often joyous and celebratory and Clouts has assembled a fine band to bring his pieces to life. Saxophonist Carlos Lopez-Real, a member of the F-ire Collective, attracted considerable praise last year for his own début album “Mandorla” (see review elsewhere on this site) and the quartet is completed by bassist Alex Keen and the experienced drummer Paul Cavacuiti. These last two have an impressive list of credits including work with Jim Mullen and Tim Whitehead (Keen) and Dave O’Higgins, Steve Williamson, Jonathan Gee and David Gordon (Cavacuiti). Both rhythm players have worked with saxophonist Theo Travis, a composer who, like Clouts, often brings a cinematic quality to his work with compositions inspired by locations or nature.

“Sennen Cove” is the natural successor to Clouts’ earlier trio album “Direction South”. The new album was recorded at Derek Nash’s studio and the indefatigable Nash brings his customarily excellent engineering skills to the date helping to give “Sennen Cove” a clean, crisp sound throughout. Also making an important contribution is Jazzwise Magazine’s Selwyn Harris who has contributed an informative set of liner notes that I’ll attempt not to paraphrase too closely here.

The album takes off with “Bird’s Word”, a nod not only to Charlie Parker but also to the avian life of the South West coast. It’s celebratory in tone with a rootsy, funky groove that Clouts admits to basing on the early compositional style of the young Keith Jarrett. I’ll go with that, there’s something of the joie de vivre of “The Windup” here with enjoyable solos coming from Clouts and Lopez-Real as Keen and Cavacuiti lay down the beat.

“Dizzard Point” (in North Cornwall, incidentally) ranges more widely as Clouts’ attempts to express the “different moods of the ever changing coastline”. It’s still pretty funky though with a strong theme that frames expansive, joyous solos from Clouts and Lopez-Real.

“Three For May” relaxes the pace, breezy and ballad like it conveys something of the mood of an early summer’s day. Clouts’ piano ripples gently in the upper registers and Lopez-Real’s airy alto also captures the air of balmy optimism.

The upbeat mood continues throughout the samba “Aqua Glide” with Lopez-Real’s sax gliding above the busy, chattering undertow of Cavacuit’s drums. Clouts also solos impressively, the notes just tumbling out of him and Cavacuiti enjoys an extended drum break.

“Deco” harks back to the soul jazz of the Blue Note era with Lopez-Real blowing bluesy alto over a subtly funky bass and drum groove. Clouts’ own solo retains the funky edge but essentially this is a feature for the saxophonist.

Hitherto the mood has been resolutely upbeat but Clouts shows his versatility as a composer with the lovely “Nine Tales”, a gradually unfolding ballad with a gorgeous theme that features both Clouts and Lopez-Real at their most lyrical, sympathetically supported by an equally adaptable rhythm section. Keen is given a brief moment in the limelight with a beautifully resonant bass solo.

“Quicksilver” has a Latin vibe with Lopez-Real’s suitably mercurial sax followed by Clouts sprightly piano leading into a playful percussion feature for Cavacuiti. Keen’s fat, slippery bass grooves anchor it all together. 

“Arle Mill” is inspired by the tranquillity of a water mill in Hampshire. It’s effectively the album’s second ballad and retains a pastoral air throughout with Clouts’ piano suitably flowing on some of his best playing to date.  This is the only trio performance on the album and Keen also features as a soloist. 

“Sennen Cove” (Cornwall again) is lively and bubbly with Lopez-Real’s alto fairly flying above Keen’s fat bass grooves and Cavacuiti’s neatly energetic drumming. There’s almost a Cuban feel to Clouts’ solo, the world music elements on the album perhaps a legacy of his long tenure with Zubop. Lopez-Real’s involvement with the similarly inclined F-ire Collective may also be a factor.

Clouts brings his past and present together on the closing “Commotion In C”. Although inspired by “the exhilaration of the surfers in Lyme Bay” the music goes right back to Clouts’ South African roots. Good natured township jive forms the basis for the piece and the mood is joyous and infectiously danceable throughout. Clouts and Lopez-Real respond to the furious pace set by the rhythm section with some wonderfully unfettered and happy playing thus ending a largely relaxed and happy album on a gloriously sunny note.

Clouts may not break any new ground with this album but he does cover an impressive range of styles in an infectiously enjoyable manner. The playing, particularly from Clouts and the extraordinarily fluent Lopez-Real is excellent throughout.

Clouts’ themes are strong and despite the relaxed vibe that pervades the album it could never be accused of being bland. This is a hugely enjoyable record and bearing in mind it’s coastal theme you could do a lot worse than making this the soundtrack for your summer.

Clouts is currently touring the material. Dates are in our news pages and also at

blog comments powered by Disqus