(Stoney Lane Records SLR1931)
This debut release from Birmingham’s newest label, Stoney Lane Records, couldn’t put the focus on a more deserving player. It features a trio led by one of the most familiar and most dedicated jazz musicians living in the city.
Mike Fletcher chooses to play the unusual C melody sax (between an alto and tenor in range, and giving the more usual altoist some added grunt down the bottom) and flute, and the band is completed by Ollie Brice on double bass and Jeff Williams on drums.
All the tunes are written by the leader and have distinct character but at the same time are open to wide interpretation by the players, giving the album not only a clear identity but also a free-wheeling, experimental atmosphere and the real vibrancy that music being created in the moment can have.
Fletcher’s tone on saxophone is often quiet, dry and gentle – listen to the two opening tracks, Aire and Her Grace – but he winds it up into a more declamatory voice when he wants – the post-bop Fletcher’s Walk being a prime example. And he gets positively loquacious on In Memoriam.
On A Dino his flute playing has a slighty spooky quality to it, probably due to the vibrato he favours. If anything it can be even more quietly and compellingly intimate than his saxophone sound. Brice gets some space here and then the flute over bass with brushed snare and cymbals creates one of those magical timbral mixtures that seems to open out a whole world within a small space.
Perhaps Sing A Song has the kind of direct melodic line one might expect from the title; Brice and Williams edge a little reggae sensibility into this one while Fletcher sings easily and conversationally over the top.
Home has the substantial construction of an American Song Book ballad, with Williams leaving it to Fletcher and Brice as they dance together with a light and elegant step. In Memoriam takes the listener on an unusual melodic and harmonic path but soon makes it sound completely natural – a tribute to the strength of Fletcher’s writing. Again, the band brings a lovely spaciousness to it, Williams the master of the relaxed yet intense groove.
The album ends as it had begun, in more reflective mode. The tune is called Savour, and that’s just what we should do with the whole of this beautifully thought out, performed and recorded album.
Mike Fletcher is part of the pan-European ECHO Rising Stars programme which means that this band is in the middle of a series of performances at some of the finest concert halls on the continent.
- The Mike Fletcher Trio plays in a double bill with the Jeff Williams Sextet at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham on Friday. More about this Jazzlines gig and online booking is here.
- To buy your copy of the Mike Fletcher Trio’s Vuelta on Stoney Lane Records go via here.
- To read interviews with Mike Fletcher on this site go here and here.
- To read an interview with Stoney Lane Records’ Sam Slater on this site go here.
Categories: CD review