Simon Allen Quintet - Any Minute Now
(SACD001. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Playing in Clark Tracey's quintet, as saxophonist Simon Allen has done since winning the Daily Telegraph 'Young Jazz' competition a while back, is a sure sign of musical competence (Tracey being the UK equivalent of Art Blakey or Betty Carter in this respect); add to this experience with the big bands of Laurence Cottle (the bassist on this recording) and Colin Towns, and you clearly have a top-flight musician on your hands.
He plays all the saxophones with aplomb, though his alto playing perhaps stands out for its ebullience and searing articulateness; on this album he also reveals a considerable but unshowy arranging talent, filtering the likes of Kurt Weill's 'Speak Low', Clifford Brown's 'Joy Spring' or Harold Arlen's 'Come Rain or Come Shine' through his own jazz sensibility so they emerge as fresh, punchy vehicles for a sparky quintet completed by trumpeter Martin Shaw, pianist Tom Cawley and drummer Mike Bradley.
Shaw and Allen are both assured soloists, whether blazing through up-tempo numbers or emoting in the album's quieter moments, and both Cawley and Bradley are suitably lively and inventive, but special mention has to be made of Cottle, who is simply the most deft, tuneful and musicianly electric bassist this side of Steve Swallow, his occasional solos an absolute joy, his grounding of the band sound simply immaculate.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable album from a smart, unfussy but surprisingly powerful band.
Copies of Any Minute Now are available from Simon Allen