THE LANDSCAPE of jazz is so incredibly broad these days, thriving on its increasing cross-pollination with other genres. But amidst all of that buzzing new invention, the excitement of horns-upfront post-bop still cuts through with arresting verve – and, in the case of Mike Hobart’s new quintet release, that’s certainly Evidential.
An unfettered spirit is apparent in tenor saxophonist Hobart’s solid performances here, presenting a sequence – which includes his own compositions – of traditional swing infused with contemporary textures/ideas. And what a band he’s assembled – trumpeter and flugelhornist Chris Lee (Pig Bag), pianist/keyboardist (and founder Jazz Warrior) Adrian Reid, double bassist Greg Gottlieb (Bahla), drummer Eric Ford (Partikel); and Danny Keane guests as pianist/composer on the title track.
The leader cites Miles Davis’ ’60s quintet (Shorter, Hancock, et al) as an early influence, and the spontaneous feel of this session captures something of that energy, with opening number Evidential lodging itself in a bold, bluesy groove which cheekily snaps into double time. There’s a real sense of a band working both cohesively and joyously: pliant, strutting bass; exuberant drums and piano/Rhodes; liberated tenor and trumpet solos/couplings, with Hobart’s hard-pushing improvisations of particular note – and at almost eleven minutes, this track never outstays its welcome.
Smouldering soulfully to Eric Ford’s steady rhythmic pulse, Rosie‘s midway modulation invites the most dreamy flugel and Rhodes episode, as well as (often the case on this recording) a memorable shared horn riff; and Bellies on the Roof‘s swinging vivacity might easily suggest Johnny Dankworth big band territory, Chris Lee’s shrill trumpet evoking Miles or Jon Faddis, and Hobart enjoying the time to shape his gruff yet lyrical lines. Chris Lee’s ballad Victory to the Underdog is characterised by the colourful, slow tremulant of Adrian Reid’s Rhodes until its underlying edginess breaks surface with a mischievous urgency which prompts tremendously gravelly scrawlings from Hobart’s tenor.
Maces Paces bubbles audaciously, like some retro TV theme with, once again, an irresistible momentum as Reid’s splendidly scampering clav/synth groove is shared by Chris Lee’s trumpet; and this kind of textural fluidity is central to the album’s attraction. Mal Waldron’s Soul Eyes is luscious in this unhurried, late-night arrangement, affording lyrical openness in trumpet, sax and double bass soloing; then, closing Base to Bass teases with free expression before unleashing its driving energy – and full of the leader’s compositional twists and turns along unexpected alleyways, plus a wonderfully sly unison motto, it erupts into enthrallingly extemporised fireworks.
This CD has been spinning away for a few weeks now, and never fails to brighten the day with its high-spirited musicality!
Chris Lee trumpet, flugelhorn
Mike Hobart tenor saxophone
Adrian Reid piano, electric keyboards
Greg Gottlieb double bass
Eric Ford drums
Danny Keane piano, Fender Rhodes (title track)