Another impressive release from an artist who is not afraid to embrace new challenges when composing and reaping the rewards in doing so.

Edition EDN1233

Mark Lockheart /Nathaniel Facey –saxes; Rowland Sutherland- flutes; George Crowley/James Allsop- clarinets; Laura Jurd/Mike Soper – trumpets; Jim Rattigan/Anna Drysdale- French horns; Harry Maund – trombone and bass trombone; John Parricelli- guitars; Tom Herbert- bass; Dave Smith- drums

Lockheart’s credentials speak for themselves. As part of the anarchic and inventive Eighties big band Loose Tubes, and from then on a burgeoning career with the groups Perfect Houseplant and Polar Bear, Lockheart has always worn two hats as both an original and compelling soloist and a composer of imagination.

These traits once again abound on his latest release Smiling that features eight new compositions for a 13 piece ensemble that creatively incorporate unusual groupings in the arrangements that bring a colour and vibrancy to the music.

From the opening ‘Morning Smiles’ with its opening guitar riff and touch knotty theme expectation are aroused, but in true Lockheart style the music never evolves quite as one expects and from the opening groove the horns enter and deliver up a lush and constantly shifting tonal palette that opens up to make way for the soloists, before once again enveloping the listener in the orchestration.

This is a pattern that the saxophonist is able to work through each of the compositions, yet each has a distinctive character of its own, and the music comes across as suite of pieces as opposed to simply eight individual tunes.

This sense of continuity is down to the fact that the music is essentially rooted in grooves and structures for the rhythm section that Lockheart has kept supple enough as a foundation to allow the writing for the horns to become quite complex with multiple lines that knit together to form the fabric and interest in the composition.

Effective use is made of the clarinets of George Cowley and James Allsop, and especially Rowland Sutherland on flutes. The saxophonist lng standing musical relationship with John Parricelli also plays a big part in the music with the guitarist’s innate ability to work as part of both the rhythm section and the horns that seemingly build a bridge between the grooves and the harmonies.

This creative writing is heard to fine effect on the challenging ‘Wrap Me Up’ and the arrangement of ‘In Deeper’ that brings forth some excellent playing from the trumpets and Laura Jurd’s solo in a finely controlled and paced composition.

In fact, there are some superb solos throughout from John Parricelli, Nathaniel Facey, Rowland Sutherland and of course Mark himself, but it is the combination of compositions and arrangements that ensure that the album is such satisfying experience.

Another impressive release from an artist who is not afraid to embrace new challenges when composing and reaping the rewards in doing so.