The release early of O’Higgins & Luft Play Monk & Trane was probably the most significant ''modern mainstream'' album of the year in terms of UK jazz. Certainly there was no finer interpretation of classic Monk and Coltrane material to appear this year.
The quartet slows it right down and by doing so captures the essence of ‘I’ll Wait and Pray,’ for instance, the George Treadwell-Jerry Valentine song Sarah Vaughan performed in 1944 with the Billy Eckstine orchestra and that a decade and a half later was interpreted by John Coltrane on what would be issued as Coltrane Jazz.
Dave O’Higgins turns in an exquisite performance and clearly he is at the top of his game. Heard in a different context recently wih Darius Brubeck at the Limerick Jazz Festival underlined the feeling that he is in the form of his life. A saxophone icon of the UK jazz scene of Irish decent O’Hig is in the studio with his band who are new generation guitarist Rob Luft stepping up to act as co-leader, and with drummer Rod Youngs out of Washington D.C. known for his work with Jazz Jamaica – and completing the line-up Belfast organist Scott Flanigan who had first surfaced to wider recognition touring with blues guitarist Ronnie Greer and a significant recruit. Flanigan has James Pearson-like chops at his disposal and that is no small claim.
O’Higgins says: “The music we’ve chosen to play focuses on lesser known Monk compositions and some of the songs Coltrane chose to record in the late-50s, more than the usual few Monk tunes and modal Coltrane so often heard. The choice of Scott Flanigan on organ changes our course from the obvious sonority associated with either musician.” One of the best albums anywhere in 2019. Hear the O'Higgins-Luft quartet during the EFG London Jazz Festival on 17 November.