From 2015. The latest volume capturing the big band’s 1990 farewell residency at Ronnie Scott’s as well as new material recorded back in Ronnie’s in May last year, their first issued since reforming.
The new tracks recorded for Radio 3 jazz show Jazz on 3 are the last three here. And as Jazz Record Requests presenter Alyn Shipton comments in the first of two liner notes, the “sense of continuity” is the most noticeable thing particularly he says on the first of these newer tracks.
Scrolling back to the 1990 tracks the album comes alive after tune announcer trombonist Ashley Slater speaks at the end of ‘Children’s Game’ with a firm indication of the big band’s long established political edge by saying emphatically, given this was during Desert Shield and what would later became known as the first Gulf War “Let’s NOT go to war in Kuwait.” The band then rips into the Chris Batchelor piece ‘The Wolf’s Dream and the Wild Eye’ complete with an extraordinary clarinet solo from Dai Pritchard, worth the price of the CD alone, that develops an intensity beyond what begins as a mocking dirge and transforms itself into what even might be considered a feral belly dance.
Orphy Robinson’s amusing sleeve note is nicely gauged, written in the style of a Test Match Special commentary, one by Johnners maybe given the period. ‘Nights at the Circus’ has some humorous musical lines too, like something from the European avant garde maybe ICP in the writing and certainly there is a wild energy in Loose Tubes throughout that keeps you guessing. Read the last bit of Orphy’s piece perhaps out loud in the voice of, given a bit of licence, Blowers: “Now that reminds me of some delightful cakes from Holland, sent to the commentary box by the mischievous duo of Parker & Harborne during what was termed the infamous Rotten Snots test series of the 1980s.” The puckish spirit lives on.
The best yet from this last, once thought terminal, hurrah of three albums, even better than the excellent Dancing on Frith Street but only by the slimmest of margins. Surely a box set collecting all three is the next logical step or even a full studio album by the reformed band while we await much needed reissues of Loose Tubes, Delightful Precipice and Open Letter. SG