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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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LONDON JAZZ FOUR

An Elizabethan Songbook

Harkit HRKCD 8385

 

 

1. The Old Spagnoletta
2. O Mistres Myne
3. Flow My Tears
4. Orientis
5. It Was a Lover and His Lass
6. Roundelay
7. Rondeau
8. Bony Sweet Robin
9. Green Grows the Holly
10. Scarborough Fair/Canticle
11. The Earle of Salisbury

Mike McNaught - Piano
Brian Moore - Bass
Mike Travis - Drums
Jim Philip - Flute
 

 

I first encountered the London Jazz Four on a 1967 LP called "Take a New Look at the Beatles". It was the first time I had heard jazz interpretations of songs by the Beatles - and I was very impressed. The group swung gloriously and found some interesting new ways of putting Beatles music across.

This "Elizabethan" album was apparently first released in 1969 and reissued by the Harkit label in 2011. The group formerly included Ron Forbes on vibes and Len Clarke on drums but for this album they were replaced by flautist Jim Philip and drummer Mike Travis. Unfortunately the change in personnel was not an improvement. The drummer is all right (albeit rather too fond of playing with mallets on the tomtoms) but the real weak link is Jim Philip. For instance, his struggling solo on O Mistres Myne would shame someone playing at a school concert. Elsewhere his intonation is dubious and he often sounds uncomfortable when trying to play a solo.

Mike McNaught's assured keyboard playing compensates for some of Jim Philip's imperfections - and I assume that Mike is also playing the organ even though nobody is credited as such. His solos swing dependably but they are virtually the only thing that does. In contrast with the Beatles album, the musicians here tend to play these old melodies straight by Giles Farnaby, John Dowland, Henry Purcell and others - and McNaught is the only one who manages to swing. One of McNaught's two originals - Orientis - is rather stolid, and Jim Philip's solo on the former is wildly out of tune. Mike's other composition - Roundeau - is a more buoyant piece in three-four time.

Having been attracted to the London Jazz Four by their previous album, I am disappointed by this venture into the music of the first Elizabethan age. Oh, and if you're wondering, the lady on the front cover is none other than singer Norma Winstone.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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