Cool new band of the moment on the London jazz scene – their next gig comes up on 17 September at Streatham’s Hideaway club – Simians of Swing are led by pure-toned jam session supremo trumpeter Andy Davies, familiar from the consistently excellent Wednesday night hard bop jam upstairs in Ronnie’s bar, and by relative newcomer bass guitarist Lorenzo Bassignani.
They turn in what they see as “eleven villainous tales of the macabre” – the style not at all swing as in the ring-a-ding-ding Johnny Mandel Sinatra-ised variety it’s worth pointing out – instead it’s more bustling hard bop cutting a dash dusted down for a new generation.
The Simians, a four-piece at their core, featuring drummer Saleem Raman (gigging lately with Nick Mulvey) and guitarist Luca Boscagin on most tracks, with guest guitarist Ant Law on a couple of tracks, keyboardists Sam Leak and Ivo Neame popping up for different spots on Rhodes and Polly Gibbons singing the highly atmospheric ‘Afro-Blue’-hinting ‘Gangster in Love’ and ‘St Lucia.’
Simians of Swing was largely recorded in the studio with ‘Soviet Supreme’ the exception recorded live at the Vortex jazz club. Interpreting material largely written by either Davies or Bassignani the style skirts noir-ish hard bop via a swirl of Kenny Dorham or inuring Freddie Hubbard flavours, Davies providing the unstuffy period atmosphere not that it is slavishly stylised, the free flowing top lines set against a splash of rhythm section texture but sometimes a break or two from say Ant Law on ‘St Lucia’ rises up organically to prompt a plum Neame contribution.
Davies’ moment really beams out in the emotion-laden stark solo at the beginning of ‘Soviet Supreme’ the band later showing how it can operate at a ridiculously fast clip on ‘Zion’ – all fluttery motion and devil-may-care.