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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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Red Letter Days

NI 6186



  1. A Face Like Yours
  2. I Should Care
  3. Killer Jane
  4. They Didn't Believe Me
  5. Hannah's Riff*
  6. But Beautiful
  7. Sometime Ago
  8. Hotting It Up
  9. Song For My Mother
  10. So Long Sadness*
  11. That Final Look
Geoff Eales (piano); Roy Babbington (bass); Mark Fletcher (drums) with Jim Mullen (guitar)*
Rec. September 2000, Gateway Studios [65:36]


Geoff Eales recorded this set back in 2000 but its reissue on Nimbus Alliance gives one another chance to enjoy a mixed originals-plus-standards album of considerable breadth. It also alerts the listener to the real pleasures to be found in Eales' back catalogue.

A Face Like Yours is a delightful opener, ebullient and generously proportioned, and with a captivating Jarrett-like (My Back Pages) spirit too. Eales certainly knows the encyclopaedia of pianists and sometimes draws on their influence; Bill Evans perhaps in I Should Care, a sensitively shaped tonally alluring performance with a naughty quotation (Mozart's G minor Symphony) drizzled in for good measure, and some neo-baroque moments as well. Roy Babbington is rock solid in support and Martin Fletcher proves a rich ally.

Killer Jane is a finger snapper whilst Eales, solo, mines ballad depths in They Didn't Believe Me exuding all the while some refined lyricism. Jim Mullen joins the trio for Hannah's Riff which, with its boppish motif, suits the quartet splendidly and leads Eales to espouse some Peterson-like bluesy licks. Mullen is fluency itself and the exchange of trades is exemplary.

This should suggest that there is plenty of variety - of nuance, style, repertoire and texture, and not least, of size - in this disc. Eales turns in another solo on But Beautiful revealing deft changes of mood, from powerful chording (rather McCoy Tyner reminiscent in places) to pert bluesy lines. His solo on Hotting It Up has some bluesy vamps as well, rolling lines vaguely reminiscent of Jarrett or Monty Alexander. Song For My Mother is a lovely lied, whilst there is something Debussian about the start to So Long Sadness although it gathers momentum, sprinkling quotations, and Mullen proving resourceful once again. We end with a wistful ballad, That Final Look.

It's a warm welcome back for this stylish, sensitive, exciting and varied disc.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Dick Stafford

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