I like the no-nonsense approach of Scottish-born, Birmingham Conservatoire-trained double bass player, band leader and composer Euan Burton. When it comes to names for tunes, why waste time thinking up all manner of clever titles. On this album, first tune is called One, the second is called Two, and the the seventh and final tune is called – yep, you guessed it – Seven.
Actually he wrote Occurrences as a kind of suite, so those part numbers make sense, but each tune stands on its own. There is a lovely relaxed feel to the album, despite the complexity of some of the material. I don’t know how often these guys get to play with each other, but it feels like they have at least spent some time bedding this material down. Or maybe they just get along very well, and are just naturally chilled.
“They” are New York-based alto and soprano saxophonist Will Vinson, Irish guitarist Mark McKnight, fellow Scot Steve Hamilton on piano and Fender Rhodes, and that busy man, James Maddren, on the drums.
They all get a chance to shine, with strong ensemble playing and plenty of solo space. Vinson is the one who attracts immediate attention on Two, with Maddren, Burton and Hamilton (on Fender) giving him all the push he needs with a hip-hop tinged groove.
The band can get all romantic, yet not quite soppy, as they show on Three, with McKnight’s lovely ringing sustain behind the piano, and Maddren using brushes. Hamilton is particularly lyrical here.
Maddren beefs Four up with some more distinctly funky drums, and the Fender Rhodes adds some edge, too, over which Vinson and McKnight lock into a duo melody before turning in tasty solos.
I haven’t mentioned the leader much, because he is one of those players who contributes a whole lot more than is evident on first impressions. He’s the kind of bassist who is happy to make everyone else sound better rather than nab the spotlight for himself. One also gets the impression he maybe felt he had done his dominant work in writing those seven tunes in the first place and arranging the band, though he does turn in a very tasty solo on Five.
And so it goes on… There is, as Burton has indicated, the feeling of a film or play developing here, with different characters and moods emerging in the course of the suite.
A highly likeable and very moreish album – It was pretty well a permanent resident in the CD player over the weekend. So, perfectly house-trained!
The Euan Burton band, as they appear on this CD, are playing tonight at The Spotted Dog. Entry if free with donations to a collection encouraged. Find out more about Euan Burton here and more about Jazz At The Spotted Dog, brainchild of saxophonist Mike Fletcher, here. They are also playing in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Cardiff become launching the album at the 606 Club in London on Monday.