Full English
All arrangements by David Rees-Williams
Country Song [4:26]
Greensleeves [6:29]
British Grenadiers [3:02]
Enigma (DR-W) [4:24]
Jerusalem [5:29]
Almand [2:32]
Land of Hope and Glory [3:55]
Bobby Shaftoe [2:35]
Nimrod [5:35]
Lincolnshire Poacher [2:50]
Scarborough Fayre [5:30]
Tallis's Canon [8:34]
My Old Man (Don't Dilly Dally) [3:45]
Ten Green Bottles [5:33]
David Rees-Williams (piano, with Hammond organ and organ)
rec. Music Room, Champs Hill, Pulborough, England, 7-9 November 2011 (piano tracks); Clyde Street, Canterbury, England, 16-17 April 2012 (organ tracks). DDD

This disc marks a rare venture into bluesy cool jazz territory for Champs Hill Records. This may come as a surprise, pleasant or otherwise, to those expecting something different. Certainly there is no indication on the cover that this marks a massive departure from the label's usual output, other than David Rees-Williams's name. The David Rees-Williams (DRW) Trio are Britain's answer to the Jacques Loussier Trio, though some may argue that Britain does not need one especially. Both Trios have a reputation for taking perfectly good material from the 'classical' realm and subjecting it to jazz improvisation routines - in their words, "unit[ing] the best of classical and jazz". Reviews of recent recordings by the DRW Trio on the DePaean label can be seen here and here.
To enter into the spirit of what Rees-Williams describes in his foreword as "a strong sense of British patriotism [in 2012] with both the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games", his stated aim with this album was "to compile a set of highly provocative English tunes". It may be that the combination of a Union Flag cover design with the title 'Full English' will provoke the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland!
To the stubbornly unenlightened, ironically, jazz improvisation has a tendency to sound entirely predictable. It has a seemingly endless capacity to turn every tune into pretty much the same thing - a meandering, cliché-ridden flow of slightly pulled-about rhythms, harmonies and melodies that have been drizzled with minimalist sentimental syrup. That is indeed what this CD will probably sound like to those immune to cool jazz.
Yet for those that know and enjoy the DRW Trio (or its French counterpart), and for all who like to think of themselves as musically liberal, this disc will certainly not disappoint. Rees-Williams here is his Trio, minus guitar and drum-kit. His arrangements are what they are, and admirers of that kind of thing will appreciate the craft that goes into it, not to mention the fine keyboard-work on display here.
Some pieces have had Hammond and 'church' organ tracks, also performed by Rees-Williams, dubbed onto them, ostensibly for extra texture. Whether they really enhance the solo piano sound, or merely add a layer of cheesy effects, is debatable. Considered more objectively, there are really only two tracks that stand out from the rest as a bit different. The first of these is the long, thoughtful Tallis's Canon, which alone has been given a less flighty sound. Then there’s the dreamy Enigma (DR-W), which has some Satiean and Ravel-like tints, and which is - coincidentally? - the only original piece in Rees-Williams's programme.
Sound and general technical quality are very good. The booklet is well-presented, with informative notes by the reliably knowledgeable Malcolm MacDonald, perhaps testing new waters himself.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
New waters for Champs Hill.