This is an album that deserves to be heard everywhere and to be garlanded with awards.

Fresh Sound New Talent Records: FSNT 656

Tom Ollendorff: guitar; Conor Chaplin: bass; Marc Michel: drums; Ben Wendel: tenor saxophone

Recorded November 26th and 27th 2022 by Tom Ollendorff at Livingstone Studios, London

With the launch of this album earlier this month (and its release the month before) it almost feels a little late to add further praise to the reception that this work is surely already getting. Following the debut album as a trio (‘A song for you’, 2021), the group have expanded to include New York saxophonist Wendel on four of the tracks here.

Ollendorff’s guitar sound has the clarity and tonality of players from the mid-1960s who merged hard bop with smooth jazz, but with this he is rapidly stamping his own sound, particularly in the ways in which he phrases his melodic runs.

He has the lightning speed that you’d hear in bebop guitarists (and which explains the appearance of Parker’s ‘Bongo beep’ and Rollins’ ‘Airegin’ on the set list). But he also delivers ballads with heart-breaking tenderness, as on the solo playing of ‘My foolish heart’ which is delivered in a style reminiscent of flamenco in its chord structure and complexity, or on ‘Istanbul coda’ which strays into a territory closer to a classical fugue.

However, he plays, the delivery feels effortless. His style is direct and unfussy (even when playing at breakneck speed). His trio work is tried and tested and the rhythm section are stalwarts of the jazz scenes in the UK and France who are always in demand.

It is testament to Ollendorff’s talent that they are happy to fit the recording session around their busy, peripatetic musical careers. The introduction of Wendel to the trio feels as if it was inevitable – so tightly coupled are the melodic and rhythmic intuitions of the players.

This is an album that deserves to be heard everywhere and to be garlanded with awards.