Disc of the day: 08-05-09

Will Collier Septet: Everybody Loves The… (F-IRE CD21)
The septet format has always appealed to me – big enough to be able to deal with big band arrangements, while small enough to enjoy turn-on-a-dime spontaneity.

Bass player Will Collier writes lively tunes with long, flowing lines and an often African feel to them. He has worked with the late Bheki Mseleku, so maybe a little of that groove rubbed off. His arrangements set cool harmony sections for the horns against pretty gentle rhythms, and he offers the soloists different moods within a single piece, and, I suspect, does that great bandleader thing of writing with the characters and styles of his individual players in mind.

Gullibility Veil shows the African tinge well, Full Stop has a richly-harmonised and catchy melody, and produces a particularly thoughtful tenor solo from Ben Somers, while Fat Clown has a great bit where the rhythm team drops out and leaves the horns to a shipwreck chorus (every man for himself) kind of interlude. The mix of arranged sections interspersed with free interludes on Gambit works well, too, while Porcelain Frogs sounds like the credits music of some quirky, charming, low-budget, feel-good movie.

The rest of the band is Joe Auckland on trumpet, Bob Dowell on trombone, Mike Lesirge on alto, Ed Sheldrake on piano and Ben Reynolds on drums, London-based musicians all of whom have other groups going and a lot of session work behind them as well. Collier is a generous leader and you certainly wouldn’t know it was his album from the way the solos are dealt out.

If it sometimes sounds a little stiff that’s probably because a group this size doesn’t get the chance to do a lot of gigging. With any luck this really strong debut disc will get them more dates and the chance to relax a little and smooth things out. And I’m not wholly convinced by the recording quality. The stereo mix sometimes follows that ’60s technique of putting a horn in one channel with the rhythm team spread across the rest. It didn’t work well then and it doesn’t now.

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