Treat yourself to this mainstream romp with a spring in its step from a band founded by the late Michael Garrick. The quartet keep both Garrick’s memory alive and of course the Modern Jazz Quartet making this a tribute band with a distinctive English twist, that latter aspect heard most of all on Garrick’s shimmering ‘Lady of the Aurian Wood’. The tasteful ‘old soul’ Barry Green, increasingly known as a ‘singer’s pianist (on the new Emilia Mårtensson album Ana for instance) has been the Celebration’s pianist since Garrick’s passing three years ago, and does a sterling job here.
The band know how to swing, that is they let themselves go and don’t treat the style like some sort of formulaic tea dance jazz gavotte, and a lot of that is down to the natural feeling vibist Jim Hart brings to the band sound. Matt Ridley you might know from the very different Thymos, one of last year’s best UK jazz releases or from his performances touring with Darius Brubeck but if not this is as good a place as any to discover one of the most exciting young jazz bass players around.
The 13 tracks here begin with John Lewis’ ‘The Golden Striker’ and include compositions by Sonny Rollins (‘The Stopper’ ‘No Moe’, and ‘Scoops’ all from the Prestige album Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet) where Dave O’Higgins guests obligingly. The saxophonist is also on Michael Garrick’s ‘Promises.’
A particularly yearning version of John Lewis’ ‘Django’ would be my pick here but I’m also drawn to the Celebration’s take on the noir-ish Matt Dennis standard ‘Angel Eyes’ where Green’s tinkling introduction and Steve Brown’s triangle-sounding touch sets up the rendition beguilingly. On this album the accent is firmly on authenticity without being po-faced, offering up the glorious music of the MJQ to a new generation of jazz lovers without compromise or artifice.
Released on 7 April
Catch the MJQ Celebration live during release week at Swansea's Jazzland on 9 April and later in the month on tour at the Queen's theatre in Barnstaple on 15 April; The Bosun's, St Austell, 16 April; and the Old Chapel, Calstock 17 April