…No recourse to licks or clichés here, just good swinging jazz and solid invention.

Ubuntu Music UBU0129

Quentin Collins (trumpet); Vasilis Xenopoulos (tenor & soprano saxophone); Rob Barron (piano); Matyas Hofecker (double bass); Matt Home (drums)

Recorded 27th October 20221

There seems to have been a resurgence in the interest in bebop of late and we have witnessed something of a revival in the music. This is due to excellent bands such as Five-Way Split that unashamedly play in the idiom with a passion and conviction that show that there is still much to discover and enjoy.

This collective group of some of the finest contemporary musicians on the UK circuit make a strong case for bebop and hard bop being a vital force in 21st century jazz and take as their starting point the music of bands such as Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Horace Silver Quintet.

Not content to rest on the laurels of the music, neither are they weighed down by the tradition, this exciting quintet present seven original compositions that look to take the bebop framework forwards with some imaginative arrangements that are fresh and invigorating.

One of the key attributes of the band is that the solos match the quality of the compositions, and the soloists are able to speak in a modern dialect without losing sight of the source. From the outset with ‘Out Of Wayne’s Bag’ by Vasilis Xenopoulos the spirit of The Messengers in audible.

With a punchy theme statement everything is neatly in place for some top notch solos. First up is Quentin Collins in a fiery and well paced solo that owes a debt to Clifford Brown. Not a slavish copy but Collins, like Brownie, plays with a big sound and warm tone and a sense of melodic development that seems to effortlessly hit the mark.

The saxophonist continues the momentum set up with a solo that also carefully measured alternating long multi-noted phrases with shorter statements that allow his music to breathe. Although not credited on the album notes, Xenopoulos plays some excellent soprano saxophone on ‘Mr Birthday Waltz’ written by Collins, with his sinewy lines as compelling as on the larger horn.

There is an air of sophistication about Quentin Collins ‘Asymphonatic’’, and the opening tenor theme reminds one of the relaxed manner in which Hank Mobley would play such a melody. The pianist takes a lovely solo on this tune in a superb arrangement that finds him accompanied by the horns. Collins also has a fine solo too, his playing really exhibiting grace and control in equal measures.

With Rob Barron’s ‘Evidently’ we are back on Messenger territory, and a fine place to be it is too. Collins delivers another of his quicksilver solos and is matched by Xenopoulos’s exuberant outing on tenor. Throughout Barron provides a solid accompaniment before his own fleet fingered solo, and the bass and drums team of Hofecker and Home keep up the excitement.

Another cracking tune is ‘Flattening the Curve’ by Quentin Collins, an attractive theme statement gives way to a relaxed 4/4 swing and the tenor saxophonist and trumpeter clearly relish the groove with another couple of well judged solos.

Of the two non-originals in the set, the title track written by Van Heusen and Chan is brilliantly arranged for the quintet by Rob Barron into lively swinger; while Fred Lacey’s ‘Theme For Ernie’ is an exquisite ballad performance with suitably lyrical solos from both horns, and pianist Rob Barron.

For those that feel that bebop maybe passé and cliché ridden this superb album may make you think again as there is no recourse to licks or clichés here, just good swinging jazz and solid invention.

Reviewed by Nick Lea