Stay Tuned Records ST013

Roger Beaujolais (vibraphone); Robin Aspland (piano); Simon Thorpe (double bass); Winston Clifford (drums); with special guest Jim Mullen (on three tracks)

Recorded 2017

Roger Beaujolais is the genuine home grown product and self-taught jazz musician. A late starter not taking up the vibraphone until he was 24, and learning his craft by playing in as many different musical genres and bands as he could blag his way into.

From these humble beginnings he has forged a forty year career playing pop, rock, jazz, and ambient music along with anything and everything in between; but it is playing jazz where his clean lines and inventive improvisations are best heard.

Not one to record prolifically under his own name, a new album by Beaujolais is something to look forward to, and with Bags of Vibes we have had to wait longer than originally planned. Recorded in 2017 and scheduled for release in October 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. With no chance of any live gigs to promote the album, Beaujolais wisely decided to wait, and here at long last the album is finally available and definitely worth waiting for.

Along with a solid rhythm section, pianist Robin Aspland is a regularly collaborator with the vibes player, there is the added attraction of a guest appearance on three tracks by guitarist Jim Mullen. This is as much Mullen’s preferred setting as it is Beaujolais and the two hit it off magnificently.

The only original of the album is the opening ‘Blues for Bags’ and it gets proceedings off to a swinging start. With one of those melodies that gets inside your head and stays there. Everyone sounds relaxed and enjoying themselves and this comes across in the solos.

Mullen sticks around for Wes Montgomery’s ‘Jingles’ as well he might and sneaks in with the first solo. The solo is brief, but when playing the way Mullen does at present, he doesn’t need long to make his presence felt and say what needs saying. This trait rubs off on the rest of the band who also deem it pertinent to get in, say what they have to and get out. This in turn makes for some exciting jazz, and the quality of the solos is maintained throughout.

Beaujolais and Mullen make a tasty treat out of Milt Jackson’s ‘SKJ’ with a clean-limbed guitar solo followed by the underappreciated Robin Aspland whose playing is impeccable. Hot on their heels is the leader himself, and his solo is also succinct and eloquent.

With the quartet having the rest of the date to themselves the standard having been set high is certainly maintained. John Lewis’s ‘Django’ is given a fine reading, with a lovely opening statement with Simon Thorpe’s arco bass before the quartet hit the groove and start swinging, and Aspland plays a stunning solo which inevitably steals the show.

The vibraphone is heard to wonderful effect on the ballad, ‘Heartstrings and Beaujolais’s take on Jackson’s composition is pretty hard to beat. Jackson also wrote ‘Some Kinda Waltz’ that again Beaujolais finds an intriguing affinity with.

By the time we get to the final track, a stirring ‘Bag’s Groove’ it should not have escaped your notice that of the nine tunes on the album five are by Milt Jackson from ballads, blues and bossa nova’s and we should also remember what a fine composer he was as well as vibraphone maestro. This is a fact that certainly hasn’t bypassed Roger Beaujolais and he has paid a fine tribute to Jackson while also stating his own case as master of the vibes.