If you like jazz with strong melodies, imaginative harmonies, and musicians who know how to play, and who really gel together, then this is an album for you.

Perdido Music

Chris Allard (guitar); John Turville (piano); Robbie Robson (trumpet); Oli Hayhurst (bass); Will Glaser (drums)

Recorded Gecko Studio, Kent, late 2022

This is one of those albums which brings together some of Britain’s most talented jazz musicians. All the members of this quintet have an impressive track record. Chris Allard has played with Jacqui Dankworth, Gwilym Silcock and the BBC Big Band; John Turville with Tim Garland, Tony Kofi and the London Jazz Orchestra.

Robbie Robson’s cv includes John Dankworth, Steve Swallow and Bill Frisell, while Oli Hayhurst was a member of Pharaoh Sanders’ European quartet for more than a decade. Will Glaser has played with Soweto Kinch, Cleo Laine and Stan Sulzmann.

Although this is billed as a Chris Allard album, it is very much a collective effort, with Allard composing or co-composing five of the nine tunes; Hayhurst two, and Robson and Turville, one a piece. All members play extensive solos.

The opening number, ‘Ocean Mirage’ is a re-arrangement of an Allard composition that first appeared on his 2021 album ‘Hoop.’ That version was played by a keyboard-less sextet (guitar, bass and drums with trumpet, sax and trombone).

On the latest version, a burst of soft, shimmering cymbal heralds Allard’s tender guitar phrases, tinged with reverb. Allard’s playing style is closer to the melodic musings of Jim Hall or Pat Metheny than the fiery pyrotechnics of Mike Stern or Al Di Meola. This is a guitarist that caresses the strings on his instrument rather than strikes them.

Turville’s piano adds a new dimension to the music, whether it’s the intricate interplay between keyboard and guitar at around the one-minute mark; his delicate voicings or a long, flowing solo.

A bass riff at the two-minute marks a switch to a faster tempo, and Allard plays a strong solo, combining melodic phrasing with angular, jagged lines. It’s a piece that was well worth a revisit.

Trumpeter Robbie Robson composed ‘Tridence,’ a tune propelled by a cross-stick-driven Latin groove. Robson is an impressive player and I was fortunate enough to see him play solo trumpet at a recent concert at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which featured the Miles Davis’ suite Aura.

Robson solos well on open horn, with his fast runs and soaring phrases reminding me of Freddie Hubbard.

Allard’s ‘Erin’ opens up like a dream, with an out-of-tempo intro and a guitar soaked in reverb. It then transforms into a melodic Latin-tinged midtempo piece.

Hayhurst’s uptempo ‘Snake Steak’ has a metronome-like beat (think Tony Williams on Miles’ ‘It’s About That Time’), but while the drums are kept on a tight leash, guitar and trumpet are free to play the theme and also solo.

At almost nine minutes in length, Allard’s ‘Driving Home’ is the album’s longest song, with a slinky groove, and guitar and horn doubling up on the melody.

Indeed one of the highlights of the whole album is how the various instruments interact, sometimes playing in unison; other times playing multiple melodies which complement each other. The coda has Allard playing a vamp while Glaser lays down a series of thunderous fills.

The quirkily titled ‘See You At Spyten Duyvil’ (it’s a neighbourhood in Bronx, New York, with a Dutch history) has a busy drum intro, a staccato motif played on the horn, and a jaunty melody performed by trumpet and guitar. Robson plays a solo that heads off to the skies, followed by Turville’s equally satisfying piano solo.

‘Time Is No Fool’ was composed by Allard and Jacqui Dankworth, so it’s a fair bet that a vocal version of this tune will crop up somewhere down the line. It’s an atmospheric ballad, imbued with a light, spacious sound. Glaser plays his drums at a funeral march pace and the highlight of the piece is Hayhurst’s graceful bass solo.

Turville’s ‘A Study In Thirds’ (whether this refers to the musical spacing between two notes or a class of academic degree, I’ll let you decide) is a heavy title for an upbeat tune with a nice swing. Allard, Hayhurst and Turville all deliver solid solos.

The closing title track – composed by Allard – has the band leaving on a high. It starts off with bustling drums and a dramatic burst of horn before settling down to midtempo groove with a Latin twist. During his long solo, Allard’s guitar notes shimmer like haze rising from a hot road.

Turville plays yet another impressive solo. The track ends with Allard and Robson joining forces on a vamp, with Glaser firing off furious fills, before ending the piece with a cymbal smash.

If you like jazz with strong melodies, imaginative harmonies, and musicians who know how to play, and who really gel together, then this is an album for you.