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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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The Solar Cats

Woodville WVCD 126@



1. The Solar Cats
2. Ursa Minor
3. The Sky at Night
4. Asteroid Belt

Journey to the Planets, a Jazz Suite by Andy Panayi
5. Mercury
6. Venus
7. In the Beginning (The Earth was Made)
8. Neptune
9. Mars
10. Saturn
11. Uranus
12. Pluto
13. Jupiter

Andy Panayi - Tenor sax, baritone sax, flutes, recorders
Mark Nightingale - Trombone
Simon Woolf - Bass 
Steve Brown - Drums


Andy Panayi has frequently been heard by most people playing saxes and flutes with the BBC Big Band. I was fortunate to be able to get him to play a Sunday Lunchtime in Coventry with a local rhythm section: he held the audience's attention throughout and it was easy to hear that this man was not just another big-band saxophone player, but a real star on all his instruments. The other members of the group represent some of the finest musicians on the UK scene. Mark Nightingale was to me, destined to great things when I heard him play as a very young man with MYJO (the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra).

The CD is a group of original compositions from the band members, Ursa Minor and Asteroid Belt by Mark Nightingale, The Sky at Night by Simon Woolf and the remainder including Journey to the Planets from Andy Panayi.

The playing throughout is very clean and precise, but maintaining that essential swing element, so vital to the jazz composition. Steve Brown demonstrates that it is possible to swing the band without playing at double forte throughout.

The sleeve notes mention the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and elements of that superb group are audible here. Personally I feel the group is nearer to the superb Jimmy Guiffre - Bob Brookmeyer Group. As Alan Barnes mentions in the sleeve note, a programme made entirely of original compositions strikes terror into the heart of most jazz fans. This is not without good reason, because I have reviewed many albums and come to the conclusion that the only reason for that programme was to avoid paying composer royalties! This is not the case on this CD; all the new pieces are right in the jazz mainstream and well worthy of inclusion. I particularly liked Mark Nightingale's Asteroid Belt; it has a strong tune and makes for good opportunities for everyone to solo. Journey to the Planets Suite, Andy Panayi's nine-part composition, has many exciting moments and the composer gets things off to a great start with his exciting solo. Venus has the leader on flute with good support from everyone, particularly Mark. On In the Beginning Mark is the first soloist playing over Steve Brown's drums, followed by Andy doing likewise.

Neptune is a slower piece, to me the least successful element of the suite. Mars gets us back into the exciting groove with nice clean ensemble work and interesting solos. Saturn starts off with Simon Woolf's bass: his tone is beautifully rounded. Steve Brown contributes some interesting drum figures. This is a moody piece that is more demanding of the listener, but worth the effort. Uranus is a mid-tempo piece with features for everyone in the group. In keeping with its reputation as a sad planet, the group strikes a sombre note for this musical adventure. Jupiter is probably the most successful track within the Journey to the Planets Suite: taken at a quick march tempo, it works well.

This is a very worthwhile effort to do something different, by a group of excellent musicians and I applaud their efforts. It is well worth listening to.

For me I would prefer to hear them play standards, but that's because I'm stuck in a time warp, in the latter part of my journey in life!


Don Mather 

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