A wonderful celebration of jazz in the 21st century that has its roots in the tradition and its focus on the future of the music.

High Note HCD 7353

Wayne Escoffery: tenor saxophone; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Josh Evans, Wallace Roney Jr: trumpets (track 3); James Burton III: trombone; Xavier Davis: piano (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 & 10); Victor Gould: piano (tracks 3, 6, 7 & 8); Vicente Archer: bass (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 & 10); Rashaan Carter: bass (tracks 3, 6, 7 & 8); Johnathan Blake: drums (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 & 10); Mark Whitfield Jr: drums (tracks 3, 6, 7 & 8)

Recorded 9 & 10 May 2023

It is hard to believe that it is ten years since the formation of the Black Art Jazz Collective, and with this their fourth album released to celebrate the anniversary, this is a collective that still has plenty to say in a powerful and vibrant manner.

For those that like their jazz to be hard hitting and conveying a message, then this is for you. The band have taken their cues from the hard bop masters of the Fifties and Sixties and imbued it with their own brand of driving solos and tender ballads that can tell the most poignant of stories.

If the collective draws influences from musicians such as Jackie McLean, Woody Shaw, Miles Davis and Art Blakey then that is where it ends. No sign of mere copyists or rehashing of the past, as this younger generation of forthright players look to drive the music forward.

Stylistic notions aside, the BAJC also follow drummer Art Blakey’s philosophy of constant growth and renewal, and this is why there are two rhythm sections with the older and established team of Xavier Davis, Vicente Archer and Jonathan Blake making way for new young talent in pianist Victor Gould, bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer, Mark Whitfield Jr.

The music presented, if appearing to abide by the tried and tested, look to develop the music through via the security given by strong compositions that are well defined. Not simply blowing vehicles, each is carefully constructed with defined roles for the rhythm section and routes for the soloists.

Throughout the music sounds fresh and invigorating, and if Escoffery is the most expansive of the soloists in his use of multi noted flurries, the solos of trombonist James Burton III, and the trumpets of Pelt, Roney Jr., and Evans and are lean and economical by comparison giving a satisfying tension and release in the music.

This sense of release within the compositions is also felt in the use of electric piano, and Xavier Davis’s solo on ‘The Fabricator’ and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt is also heard to fine effect in a nicely balanced outing. There is a lovely tribute to Sidney Poitier in the ballad ‘Soliloquy’ with some fine interplay between Escoffery and Pelt, while ‘Looking for Leroy’ is a punchy theme in the classic Blue Note style with excellent solos all round.

The most interesting and considered of the compositions can be heard in the title track with some fine writing for the horns, as well as providing a solid foundation for the soloists, and again looking classic hard bop sound the BAJC bring the album to quietly rousing climax with ‘Blues on Stratford Road’.

A wonderful celebration of jazz in the 21st century that has its roots in the tradition and its focus on the future of the music. With the new blood making their BAJC debut on this release, the future looks to be in safe hands.