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
7. In the Beginning (The Earth was Made)
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