If Matt Carter writes and arranges like this for an octet, just imagin what he could do with a big band at his disposal!

Ubuntu Music UBU0143

Matt Carter (piano); Luke Tomlinson (drums); Joe Lee (bass); George Jefford (trumpet); Tom Smith (alto saxophone); Jonny Ford (tenor saxophone); Harry Greene (baritone saxophone); Harry Maund (trombone); Gareth Lockrane (flute on tracks 2, 4, 10)

No recording date given

There hardly seems that a month goes by without the ubiquitous Ubuntu imprint releasing an album that is of interest, and this month is certainly no exception. In fact, this debut album from Matt Carter without a doubt falls under the ‘must hear’ category.

This is the pianist’s first studio album and has been some five years in the making from inception to release. Carter began working on the music while studying at the Royal Academy of Music.

The time and effort that Carter has put into the music has come to fruition with an album that has a contemporary vibe, yet also is steeped in the tradition.

What is most impressive is the writing. The pianist’s arrangements are so full and beautifully voiced for the horns that one has too constantly pause t remember that this is only an eight-piece band and not a larger ensemble.

The pianist modestly keeps his contributions to a minimum. He plays a beautifully phrased introduction to ‘Hope Song’ before the horn section enter with a joyously punchy riff.

Jonny Smith takes a well judged tenor solo, his lines flowing effortlessly over the accompaniment provided by his colleagues.

It is this ability to pace the music, and indeed the set that makes this such a joyous album to listen too. The modern edge to Carter’s music comes out on some fine original compositions such as the dynamic ‘Like It Or Not’ and the title track, while ‘Fighting Talk’ takes no prisoners with exhilarating solos from flautist Gareth Lockrane and Tom Smith on alto.

There is also more excitement generated as they then trade phrases bringing the piece to a thrilling climax.

Aware of his debt to some of the great composers and arrangers of an earlier era, Carter presents a couple of superb arrangements of  Gershwin’s ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ and ‘Girl Talk’ by Neal Hefti that recall the big bands of the Fifties.

The pianist also delivers another tasteful introduction to another outstanding original composition ‘Duke’s Mood’, that plays homage to Ellington in fine style and with wonderfully expressive playing from trombonist, Harry Maund.

However, at the end of the day this excellent album is not all about the solos, as good as they are, but about the Octet as a unit as the musicians move seamlessly through the arrangements bringing the charts to life.

I defy anyone not to tap their foot to the swinging sound of the aforementioned ‘Like It Or Not’ or be moved by ‘Duke’s Mood’.

If Matt Carter writes and arranges like this for an octet, just imagin what he could do with a big band at his disposal!