CD REVIEW: Pete Saberton, London Jazz Orchestra, Guildhall Jazz Band – The Saberton Album

Pete Saberton. Photo credit: Garry Corbett.

Pete Saberton, London Jazz Orchestra, Guildhall Jazz Band -
The Saberton Album
(Babel Label BDV15138. CD Review by Jack Davies)


On a few occasions, I was lucky enough to stand crowded amongst the London Jazz Orchestra’s trumpet section on the small stage of Dalston’s Vortex Jazz Club. I remember staring, baffled, at Pete Saberton’s inscrutable face as the curious opening of Dragon Fever unfolded. Playing Sabbo’s music alongside the composer and his LJO will remain one of my fondest memories.

Saberton’s artistry was to extract new sounds from the traditional big band through unending melodies. His pieces are puzzling, challenging, warm and unpretentious. Pete’s classical training seeps through his music, which avoids repetition and is composed from beginning to end. This is big band music with snare drum, trumpet staccati, whole-tone woodwind and piano ostinati.

The Saberton Album aims to rectify a sad lack of recorded evidence of Saberton’s work. It’s a pity that only two of the album’s tracks feature the LJO with Saberton at the piano; these two tracks should be cherished.

Largely recorded in 2013, after Pete had passed away, Alcyona Mick is left to take up the piano chair on six of the album’s eleven tracks. She deftly weaves imaginative solos which complement Saberton’s music – her playing on Trilogy is a delight.

A single Saberton solo shows the frame on which his big band music was constructed. In it you can imagine Noel Langley's and Henry Lowther’s trumpets, Pete Hurt’s flute, Martin Speake’s saxophone and the LJO’s thundering trombones.

This album is at its best when the London Jazz Orchestra unpick the majesty of Saberton’s written music. It was written for these players, and theirs is the sound which Saberton held in his mind. The Guildhall Jazz Band, under the LJO’s Scott Stroman, deliver an assured performance that belies their youth.

Pete Saberton should be remembered as one of Britain’s best modern composers. The Saberton Album is a worthy tribute to the great man, and a faithful study of his enigmatic music.

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