Hannah Horton conducts herself in front of an audience then we may be well advised to keep her out of the recording studio and capturing more of her inventive and vibrant live music for us to enjoy.

Self Release – available from hannahhorton.com

Hannah Horton (tenor & baritone saxophones); Tim Lapthorn (piano); Nic France (drums); Rob Statham (bass)

Recorded at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, January 2023

If you are going to make a live album, this is how you do it. Tenor and baritone saxophonist Hannah Horton is quite rightly highly regarded as a soulful and lyrical player. She handles the big baritone sax with the same agility as the tenor and has a sound on both horns that is engaging and appealing.

Her approach to the saxophone is not of flamboyance, but cleverly uses her virtuosity to connect her sound and solos in a manner that speaks directly to the listener. Her music is accessible in the most positive sense, and yet is still able to dig deep into the jazz vernacular that she loves. To do this and build an audience that regularly attend her gigs and buy her albums, even though they may not die-hard jazz fans is a testament to Horton’s determination to get her music out there and heard.

Havig said that do not expect to sit down to a set of easy listening or smooth jazz. Horton and the quartet dig into the music with gusto, but throughout the overall message is that of melody and communicating with the audience.

Five of the eight compositions played at the Pizza Express were heard on the album Inside Out, but this is no mere trotting out of familiar tunes as each is seemingly heard anew with the energy of the live performance.

‘Feed The Birds’ is given a fine reading with Hannah’s big round tenor tone caressing the melody, and deals with ‘Las Vegas Tango’ on the big baritone sax in the same way using the full range of the horn in a solo full of unexpected twists. ‘Escape’ seems to let you do just that, with a relaxed and swinging theme for the baritone that cannot fail to raise a smile.

Chick Corea’s ‘Sea Journey’ is given a thorough investigation from Rob Statham’s bass guitar intro and Horton’s tenor playing is exemplary from the majestic statement of the theme and a solo that is exploratory without ever losing sight of Corea’s theme, to the extent that snippets of the melody frequently pop up as if to signpost the route taken to the audience. Credit should also be given to Statham’s bass solo, and the power and precision of Nic France’s drumming.

Pianist, Tim Lapthorn is a tower of strength throughout with some tasty accompaniment and is certainly no slouch when given the chance to solo either as he does on ‘Las Vegas Tango’. But at the end of the day, it is it the saxophonist’s gig and if this how Hannah Horton conducts herself in front of an audience then we may be well advised to keep her out of the recording studio and capturing more of her inventive and vibrant live music for us to enjoy.

You can read our interview with Hanna here.