CD REVIEW: John Horler – Free And Easy


John Horler – Free And Easy  
(Trio tr602. CD review by Peter Vacher)

Quietly, one might almost say self-effacingly, pianist John Horler has built up a discography of great distinction without ever winning any prizes or causing too much of a stir. For all that, he remains one of our most creative players, a senior professional who is invariably inventive and much valued by his peers. Indeed, his presence on a gig is an implicit guarantee of quality.

Well known as an accompanist to singers [viz Dame Cleo Laine for one] he’s equally adept at performing solo and in this new recording does just that. It’s John’s wife, Poppy Horler, who seems to have urged him on and she says she especially appreciates his "free" playing, hence the album reference and the inclusion of no less than five of his impromptu improvisations.

After the first of these delicate ruminations, he moves into Piece For Poppy, which reveals itself through a variety of approaches, first reflective and then more assertive, before falling back into a quiet reverie. Another short "free" sequence follows, clever and engaging, before he essays My Ship as a master-class in how to re-harmonise and re-shape a familiar theme, each chorus marked by unexpected outcomes.

A perfect example of Horler’s personal way with a composition comes with Neal Hefti’s After Supper, a Basie staple from the Atomic album, here re-cast with just a hint of the Count’s original piano commentary. The celebrated standard What’s New? is given quite a torrid make-over, two-handed in that various lines are set against each other, jubilantly complex at times before winding down. John’s improvisation on Bach’s Prelude in Eb Minor is a thing of beauty as you might expect but, hey, that just about sums up the whole enterprise.

Superb piano sound, by the way, courtesy of Trio’s Andy Cleyndert.

Peter Vacher's book 'Swingin' on Central Avenue' won the 2016 ARSC Best History in Jazz Music Award

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