: The Bracknell Connection
2. Agitato Sympatico
3. Fraggie Bar Waltz
CD2: Salisbury Suite
1. Peg Leg Bates
2. Ballad For St. Ed
Peter King - Alto sax (CD1)
Jeff Daly - Alto sax (CD2)
Art Themen - Tenor sax, soprano sax
Don Weller - Tenor sax
Harry Beckett - Trumpet
Malcolm Griffiths - Trombone
Stan Tracey - Piano
Dave Green - Bass
Bryan Spring - Drums
Clark Tracey continues to do his father (and Stan Tracey
fans) a service by issuing albums of Stan Tracey's old recordings,
some of which (like this double album) have not appeared on CD before.
This set also includes a previously-unissued encore Chiffik from
the 1976 Salisbury Arts Festival.
The album contains two suites: The Bracknell Collection,
recorded at London's 100 Club in November 1976, and the Salisbury Suite, recorded at the Festival Hall in February 1978. Both
of them exemplify Stan Tracey's imaginative composing and arranging.
His abilities in this area often concentrate on his Under Milk Wood suite but he wrote many other fine compositions and
arrangements - from which I would single out his arrangements of various
works by Duke Ellington.
The Bracknell Connection, originally released on Stan's Steam label,
was written for the second Bracknell Jazz Festival and subsequently
recorded at the 100 Club. As with Duke Ellington, Tracey devised resourceful
arrangements while allowing his individual soloists full rein to show
their paces. The first number Cuddly includes a couple of storming tenor-sax solos (unfortunately
the sleeve-note doesn't identify which tenorist is playing, although
I guess that it's Art Themen and then Don Weller here). Malcolm Griffiths'
trombone solo is less coherent, and he is possibly the least reliable
in a strong line-up of musicians. The band lays out for Stan to solo,
with definite echoes of Thelonious Monk.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about this track
- and all the others - is the way that the octet is propelled by
bassist Dave Green and drummer Bryan Spring. Dave Green's brilliance
is well-known but Bryan Spring deserves to be more highly regarded,
as he is one of Britain's outstanding drummers. He was still playing
brilliantly when I heard him recently. He has a thrusting style and
may be one of the loudest drummers outside heavy metal, but a forceful
drummer is just what a group like this needs to keep up the impetus
and (dare I say it?) sheer exhilaration.
Agitato Sympatico is rather like a Charles Mingus composition, with
a shrieking saxophone over dislocated rhythms which threaten to become
anarchic at one point. Fraggie Bar Waltz begins with pianistic fireworks from Tracey leading
into a bouncy waltz. Stan Tracey's piano also opens Timespring,
in which the octet falls silent while the two tenorists overlap one
another in a kind of wild counterpoint - one of the many highspots
in this album. Bryan Spring supplies a masterly drum solo. The 19
minutes of Chiffik seem to have been improvised entirely on
the spot. It starts with a remarkably varied piano solo from Stan,
and then Peter King's alto quotes from Old Devil Moon and the
other musicians join in freely, developing a three-note riff which
becomes the basis for much of the following improvisation. It all
makes better sense than most "free improv".
The Salisbury Suite is equally mesmerising,
with the same level of inspiration and perspiration from Stan and
the band. Jeff Daly replaces Peter King as the group's altoist but
otherwise the personnel is the same. Peg-Leg Bates includes a splendid trumpet solo from Harry Beckett
in a piece which might be described as "funky". Ballad for St. Ed takes the tempo down for a rather poignant tune,
featuring reflective piano from the leader and some stirring ensembles
from the octet. Jeff Daly's alto solo is also noteworthy. The final
track, the 28-minute Miff, opens with a sturdy bass solo from
Dave Green leading into a swinging up-tempo tune which features another
virtuosic drum solo from Bryan Spring and a gloriously mischievous
solo from Tracey.
The remastered sound is remarkably good and, even though
this album comes at full price, it is worth getting as a memorable
record of an illustrious octet.