Steve Melling Clark Tracey Special Septet - Special One
(Melljazz MJCD007. CD Review by Chris Parker)
The personnel on this septet album should tell you most of what you need to know about this splendid recording: in addition to the co-leaders, pianist Steve Melling and drummer Clark Tracey, there is the latter's current first-choice alto player, Simon Allen, trumpeter Mark Armstrong, trombonist Mark Bassey, bassist Geoff Gascoyne (who also provides the cover art) and either Dave O'Higgins or Josephine Davies on tenor.
Composing duties are shared between Armstrong, Melling, O'Higgins and Gascoyne (with an Allen arrangement of Ray Noble's 'Cherokee' thrown in for good measure), but it is arguably the manner – tight, assured, powerful, musicianly but pleasingly informal – that impresses as much as the matter here.
Melling's 'Alfred the Great', for instance, recalls all the slow-building power and roiling intensity of one of the UK pianist's most obvious influences, McCoy Tyner; Tracey's 'The Mighty Sas' memorably fleshes out the version (also involving Armstrong and Allen) on the drummer's 2006 quintet album of the same name; O'Higgins's 'In the Zone' unfussily incorporates one of the most celebrated of jazz staples, 'Giant Steps' into its energy and bustle.
Overall, an unalloyed treat from eight of the UK's finest in top form.
The album is available from www.stevemelling.co.uk and at gigs.