Alex Hitchcock, Dream Band, Fresh Sound New Talent ****

Startlingly vivid and mature while essentially hugging the middle ground in the company of several line-ups the tracks with pianist Noah Stoneman and drummer Jason Brown are best but we are spoilt. These are 'Yeshaya,' 'Move 37' and 'Simulacra'. …

Published: 19 Nov 2021. Updated: 11 days.

Startlingly vivid and mature while essentially hugging the middle ground in the company of several line-ups the tracks with pianist Noah Stoneman and drummer Jason Brown are best but we are spoilt. These are 'Yeshaya,' 'Move 37' and 'Simulacra'. Anybody who has heard Stoneman live will know that he is the most exciting new pianist to emerge on the UK scene since Kit Downes first surfaced in 2007 in the original line-up of Empirical. And he's alert and agile here. Hitchcock's tunes are outstanding and his very fine technique catnip for tenor sax lovers. My only issue is that the number of line-ups makes it feel like several albums are trying to break out in miniature at once. In terms of dream bands Hitchcock is hedging his bets.

The only cover is the Duke Ellington rarity 'Azalea' released first on The Great Reunion with Louis Armstrong in 1963, (if you like the Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh standard 'Witchcraft' that Sinatra made his own in the 50s you'll be right at home with a scrap of the melody here) Hitchcock stunning in a Coleman Hawkins-like vein on the track in a musical conversation with Midori Jaeger who accompanies with plucked cello and then sings. Begs to be heard.

Alex Hitchcock is playing the Stapleford Granary in Cambridge on Sunday with Deschanel Gordon who is also on Dream Band.

Hitchcock, above, photo via Bandcamp

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Ben LaMar Gay, Open Arms to Open Us, International Anthem ****

Very left-field and pretty stimulating although patchy overall. When it's good it is extremely good. The word innovative is bandied around too often but this is innovative with a capital I. The vision of cornetist-vocalist-multi, multi, hyphenate …

Published: 19 Nov 2021. Updated: 14 days.

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Very left-field and pretty stimulating although patchy overall. When it's good it is extremely good.

The word innovative is bandied around too often but this is innovative with a capital I. The vision of cornetist-vocalist-multi, multi, hyphenate (let's just say, auteur and be done with it), Ben LaMar Gay, and given the risk involved in being so experimental not everything works. But that doesn't actually matter because you get the drift and you know you won't have heard anything like this ever. Within this sprawling studio production LaMar Gay is credited for contributing cornet, voice, organ, balafon, synths, temple blocks, programming, just for starters. With a range of players including notably cellist Tomeka Reid the majority of the compositions are solely Gay's.

Recorded back in March in a Chicago studio the buoyant 'Aunt Lola and the Quail' with its bespoke almost konnakol undertow and big bass drum feel contrasts with the more linear vocal on 'Oh Great Be The Lake'. I liked the Matthew Davis tuba line introducing 'Dress Me In New Love' a lot and the driving alert beat cooked up in the rhythm section operating in tandem. 'Touch Don't Scroll' is excellent for groove and the Reid feature on 'In Tongues and in Droves' ingeniously weaves elastic strangulated voice with Reid's cello lines in quasi-operatic fashion. The chant of 'S'Phisticated Lady' featuring Gira Dahnee and Angel Bat Dawid is a bit of fun. But the best is kept to last with La Mar Gay Olu Dara-like and happening on the superb 'We Gon Win'. Guaranteed to free your soul flaws and all. SG. Out today