1. Afro-Charlie Meets the White Rabbit
2. Duffy's Circus
3. Dream of Many Colours
4. Rocky Mount
5. Triple Celebration
The Grandad Suite
8. January's Child
9. Portrait of Katie
10. Zach's Dream
Stan Tracey - Piano
Simon Allen - Saxes
Andy Cleyndert - Bass
Clark Tracey - Drums
Now that he has reached his senior moments (Stan Tracey was 82 when
this CD was recorded), the leader of this quartet shows no signs of
going quietly - and his playing can still uncannily resemble the rebelliousness
of Thelonious Monk. Chris Parker's sleeve-note warns against comparing
Tracey and Monk, but I'm afraid the comparisons are unavoidable -
and they are not odious.
All the compositions are by Tracey, but the opening Afro-Charlie
Meets the White Rabbit (already performed by different line-ups
on previous Tracey albums) might have been written by Monk, as could
several other pieces on this CD. Stan's solos also reveal the Monk
influence in their stabbing notes and unexpected chords. The resemblance
is accentuated here by the presence of saxist Simon Allen, making
the quartet occasionally reminiscent of Thelonious' most famous quartet
with Charlie Rouse on tenor sax. However, Simon seems equally adept
on a number of different saxophones.
The comparison with Thelonious is not intended to suggest that Stan
is anything but his own man with his own personal style, which includes
many elements. Stan's tendency to dig away at the piano keyboard suggests
he is digging for gold - which he often finds in this very worthwhile
album. The main focus is on the Grandad Suite, which was inspired
by Stan's grandchildren. It starts with the undulating Benology,
which includes an airy soprano sax solo by Simon Allen. January's
Child has an intriguing melody which unwinds slowly. Portrait
of Katie suggests that Katie is a lively, perhaps wild, child.
Stan's solo flies freely, and Simon's does the same, backed only by
Clark Tracey's drums. The suite ends with Zach's Dream, an
enigmatic jazz waltz.
Of the other tracks, Duffy's Circus begins with a long, resonant
bass solo from Andy Cleyndert, leading into a hustling piece driven
along by bass and drums, forcefully punctuated by Stan's piano. Dream
of Many Colours illustrates the pensive aspect of Tracey's writing,
with a wistful soprano sax solo by Simon and a thoughtful solo from
Stan. Simon Allen is the star of Rocky Mount, playing an adventurously
swirling solo. Triple Celebration uses the calypso rhythm of
Sonny Rollins' St Thomas, although Clark Tracey's drums are
a bit too low down in the mix to contribute the necessary percussive
element - although Clark gets to do a showy solo. Simon Allen's tenor
sax solo even reminds me of Rollins' trademark gruffness. Stemless
is a grooving blues.
Some of the tune titles may mystify listeners: it would have been
useful if the sleeve-notes had explained the stories behind them.
But this is only a very minor grouse when set against the superior
music that fills this disc - another winner from Stan Tracey.