Pete Hurt Jazz Orchestra - A New Start
(Trio TR 596. CD Review by Review Brian Blain)
Pete Hurt is a fine tenor player, although you have to wait until the final track on his new album, A New Start, to hear how good he is. He has been a member of bands led by George Russell, Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard as well as the London Jazz Orchestra and small bands as well as with most of the most significant soloists of the last thirty years or so. And in the real world he wrote most of the score for the West End hit from Stratford East, Five Guys Named Moe. So much for the PR for one of the finest but self-effacing musicians on the scene. It's absurd really to have to lead into somebody's work in this way because this is some of the best writing that I have heard since Dick Walter's outstanding Secret Moves album about ten years ago.
Hurt's writing takes in an enormous range of mood, from the reflective piano feature for Kate Williams, Triangle, to the wild but disciplined firestorm of the final Forbidden Fruit. He produces this through the brilliant use of dynamic contrast, tempo changes and the development of a musical motif from the opening melody to be passed around the sections with the occasional foray into counterpoint - extremely rare in jazz. His ability to blend just three trumpets - magnificently led by Noel Langley - with the bottom end of tuba, french horn, bass trombone and baritone saxophone to produce ensemble sounds, far bigger than the number of players at his disposal would suggest, is really brilliant. For once the term orchestra is totally on the money; this writing is so much more than the 'Big Band' tag conjures up......although I can still get a kick out of Woody Herman's Four Brothers.
If much of the foregoing sounds a bit beard-strokey get into Blues In The Dark, the most obviously Gil Evans-influenced, the perfect track, down to the 'clean' sound of Nick Costley-White's guitar, the sound Evans wanted on classics like Great Jazz Standards and Old Wine New Bottles until he became smitten with Hendrix, followed by the glorious Jimmy Knepper tones of Nick Mills's trombone. Above all cop the terrific 'down' feel of the rhythm section with Mick Hutton showing what a marvellous bass player he is, the perfect pivotal centre for Kate Williams and the fast rising drummer, Jon Scott. Pay attention as well to Kate's beautifully sensitive piano feature, the penultimate track, Triangle - it's not all 'sturm und drang' although Pete Hurt doesn't stint on the sheer power that this collection of relatively new faces and marvellous vets like Henry Lowther are capable of producing. This is a real jazz orchestra carefully assembled by a magnificent writer and band leader. If this were a play review the management would be rushing to put 'a triumph!' on the marquee just as soon as possible.