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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Jazz Services JSLCD 001 (distributed by 33 Records)



1. The Happy Ending
2. Patriotic Tune
3. The Dance Weaver
4. Finding Amy
5. Straight Talk
6. The Regent Golden Fox and King
7. Tight Lines
8. With All These Things To Remember...
9. Over The Rainbow
Jamil Sheriff Piano
Kevin Holborough Trombone
Joel Purnell Alto sax
Ben Martin Tenor sax
Andrew Colman Flugelhorn
Pat McCarthy Guitar
John Perry Drums
Zoltan Dekany - Bass

You don't hear many jazz octets nowadays, as most small groups are smaller - and big bands are much bigger. So it is refreshing to encounter a bandleader who writes for an eight-piece group and has even managed to keep it together since it was formed a few years ago and recorded its first album, Daydreams.

Jamil Sheriff is a pianist from Bolton in Lancashire who studied at Leeds College of Music and is now a lecturer there and at York University. This CD is the first to have been recorded with help from Jazz Services, which has a Recording Support Scheme that will enable eight British bands to make albums over the next two years. Jamil wrote all but the final track here and some of the tunes are instantly catchy like Patriotic Song, which has a hummable melody that provides a good basis for improvisation, with Joel Purnell playing a dexterous alto solo. Despite its forbidding title, The Regent Golden Fox and King is an atmospheric blues which might have been written by Charles Mingus.

Some of the other numbers are less memorable like Finding Amy, whose twisting theme leaves guitarist Pat McCarthy struggling to construct a convincing solo. And Tight Lines disconcertingly fades in, as if the listener is being ushered in part-way through a repetitive riff for no particular reason. However, like the more accessible tunes, these tracks display Sheriff's enterprising arrangements, which make interesting use of the ensemble. That adventurous spirit is illustrated by Sheriff's handling of the closing tune, Harold Arlen's Over the Rainbow. Jamil starts by playing the verse on the piano, then the horns interweave in the main theme with some out-of-the-way voicings. Andrew Colman takes a poignant flugelhorn solo, backed by questing accompaniment from the rhythm section, followed by an equally delicate piano solo from Jamil.

All in all, this album holds one's attention with the inventiveness of some of the solos and, above all, by the variety of the arrangements.

Tony Augarde





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