The United Kingdom's recent political crisis surprised a world unused to seeing this powerful nation in such an unstable state. However, if there's one thing about jolly-old England that you can always count on, it's the Empire's consistently excellent jazz scene. Much of this can be attributed to pianist Stan Tracey, "The Godfather of British Jazz." At 83, the internationally renowned pianist continues to make beautiful music.
On his two most recent recordingsone with a quartet and one with an octetTracey shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it appears he's only improved with age. Throughout both releases Tracey displays the same deft touch heard on the essential live recordings he made with the great Ben Webster in 1968 at the world-famous London nightclub Ronnie Scott's.
Senior Moment features Tracey in collaboration with his regular quartet: Simon Allen (sax), Andy Cleyndert (bass) and Tracey's son Clark on drums. The group handles ten Stan Tracey compositions, each an inspired original exercise in straight-ahead bop. Two numbers in particularthe album-opening "AfroCharlie Meets the White Rabbit" and "Rocky Mount"possess themes so catchy that they will likely become standards in American bands once they make their way to the States. The final four tracks comprise what Tracey calls "The Grandad Suite," with each selection dedicated to one of his grandchildren. The music remains stellar throughout; however, Allen's occasional penchant for the soprano sax can at times take its toll.
The Later Works includes two five-part suites commissioned by various governmental entities. In 1997, British Lord Christopher Patten commissioned "The Hong Kong Suite" to mark the Empire's handover of power to China. The British trade union NALGO commissioned "The Amandla Suite" in 1993 to celebrate its merger with fellow unions COHSE and NUPE, which eventually formed UNISON. Both suites feature the same quartet from Senior Moment, with additional support from saxophonists Mornington Lockett and Sammy Mayne, trumpeter Guy Barker and trombonist Mark Nightingale. Tracey thrives in this large-group atmosphere. His compositional skills, combined with excellent musicianship from all involved, results in high-quality bebop throughout. This is especially true on "The Hong Kong Suite," which features China-inspired titles like "Moon Cake" and "Lunar Lanterns."
If these two Stan Tracey releases don't satisfy your craving for straight-ahead British jazz, look no further than The Flamingo Connection; a two-disc, 36-song compilation of the best music from the Ember label. Along with Tracey, it includes cuts from such English jazz luminaries as Tubby Hayes, Don Rendell and Harold McNair. The highlight of the album, though, has to be the hard-swinging "Beaulieu Blues" from Vic Lewis & his All Stars. All of this music is highly recommended for Brits and Yanks, alike. Those red coats can swing!
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Afro-Charlie Meets The White Rabbit; Duffy's Circus; Dream Of Many Colours; Rocky Mount; Triple Celebration; Stemless; The Grandad Suite: Benology; January's Child; Portrait Of Katie; Zach's Dream.
Personnel: Stan Tracey: piano; Simon Allen: saxophones; Andy Cleyndert: bass; Clark Tracey: drums.
The Later Works
Tracks: The Hong Kong Suite: Sweet Lips; Lunar Lanterns; Moon Cake; Dragon Boats; Crackers & Bangers. The Amandla Suite: Cottons & Bobbins; Humberto's Dream; The Cuban Connection; Building Bridges; Unison.
Personnel: Simon Allen: tenor saxophone; Mornington Lockett: tenor and soprano saxophones; Sammy Mayne: alto saxophone; Mark Nightingale: trombone; Guy Barker: trumpet; Stan Tracey: piano; Andrew Cleyndert: double bass; Clark Tracey: drums.
The Flamingo Connection: Great British Modern Jazz
Tracks: Disc 1: Weber The Great (The Tony Kinsey Quintet); The Country Squire (The Jazz Makers With Ronnie Ross And Allan Ganley); Cheek To Cheek (The Jazz Couriers); Beaulieu Blues (Vic Lewis And His All Stars); Heard And Seen (The Tommy Whittle Quintet)l Autumn In Cuba (The Bill Le Sage And Ronnie Ross Quartet); The Cheaters (The Bill Le Sage And Ronnie Ross Quartet); The Toff (The London Jazz Quartet (featuring Tubby Hayes); A Foggy Day (In London Town) (Carmen McRae); 'Round About Midnight (Carmen McRae); Ilkley Moor Bah' Tat (The British Jazz Trio); Yesterdays (The Don Rendell Quartet); Early One Morning (The Tony Crombie Orchestra); Basie Talks (The Ronnie Scott Orchestra); Yodellin' (Tony Crombie And His Friends); Guys And Dolls (The Jazz Couriers); On A Misty Night (The Jazz Couriers); World Of Blue (The Tony Kinsey Quintet). Disc 2: Motor Museum (The Parliament Brass And Orchestra directed by Buddy Kaye); Girl In Blue (The Tony Kinsey Quintet); Eddification (The Eddie Thompson Trio); Theme For (The Eddie Thompson Trio); Domus (Vic Lewis And His All Stars); Howl (The Tommy Whittle Quintet); What's New? (Annie Ross); Limehouse Blues (Annie Ross); Charlie Is My Darling (The British Jazz Trio); Gut Bucket (Tony Crombie And His Friends); Brazilia (Tony Crombie And His Friends); Some Of My Best Friends Are Blues (The Jazz Couriers); Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Ronnie Ross Quintet); Let's Call The Whole Thing Off (The Derek Smith Trio with Harry Klein); Moveable (The Eddie Thompson Trio); Just Play (The Eddie Thompson Trio); The Serpent (The Jazz Couriers); All Star Special (The Flamingo All-Stars).
Personnel: Tubby Hayes; Ronnie Scott; Annie Ross; Tony Kinsey; Bill LeSage; Carmen McRae; Don Rendell; Tony Crombie and others.