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



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ECHOES OF SWING

Blue Pepper

Act 9102-2

 

 

1. Blue Pepper

2. Azzuro

3. Blue Prelude

4. La Paloma Azul (The Blue Dove)

5. Blue and Naughty

6. Blue Moon

7. Black Stick Blues

8. Blue River

9. Out of the Blue

10. Aoi Sanmyaku (Blue Mountain Range)

11. The Smurf

12. Blue Gardenia

13. The Blue Medicine

14. Wild Cat Blues

15. Azure

 

Colin T. Dawson – Trumpet, vocals

Chris Hopkins – Alto sax

Bernd Lhotzky – Piano, celesta

Oliver Mewes - Drums

 

Formed in 1997, Echoes of Swing is a quartet which dispenses with a bass but still often manages to sound like a considerably larger group. They might be called a “little big band”, which is a description that was applied to the John Kirby Band. Echoes of Swing sometimes sounds like John Kirby’s sextet, thanks to its ingenious arrangements which match those used by Kirby in inventiveness and intricacy. This comparison is particularly noticeable where the trumpet and alto are harmonized together, in such tracks as Azzurro, Aoi Sanmyaku (Blue Mountain Range) and Wild Cat Blues.

Echoes of Swing consists of British-born Colin T. Dawson, American-born (but raised in Germany) Chris Hopkins, plus Germans Bernd Lhotzky and Oliver Mewes. They are all skilful instrumentalists, and each musician has special qualities which they bring to the band. Dawson not only plays the trumpet with equal facility muted or open but he also contributes some smooth vocals. Hopkins makes the influence of other altoists like Johnny Hodges and Pete Brown clear, especially in his lyrical solo on Blue Gardenia (where the most relevant comparison would be Freddy Gardner). Lhotzky is renowned for his stride piano playing but he also emulates Earl Hines in using the piano to create an orchestral sound. The drums are generally under-recorded but Oliver Mewes makes an impression when he is allowed to solo.

Observant readers will already have noticed that all the tunes have “blue” in their titles – or some reference to blue (as in The Smurf and the two titles which refer to azure). This gives the music an underlying feeling of the blues, although the tunes also evoke a wide range of genres, from classic jazz via swing to modern.

The opening Blue Pepper is an oriental-flavoured piece from the Far East Suite by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. This means that the album is bookended by Ellingtonian pieces, since the closing Azure was written by the Duke. Besides the jazz standards and some little-known tunes, the repertoire includes originals by Hopkins (Blue and Naughty) and Lhotzky (Out of the Blue and The Smurf). Blue and Naughty actually has a beboppish feel; Out of the Blue starts and ends with Lhotzky playing the celesta in semi-classical mood, with the tempo changing for a fast central portion lifted by drum soloing; and The Smurf has that bright John Kirby spirit.

This CD only lasts for 53 minutes but the band packs 15 tunes into that space – none outstaying its welcome. A delightful album.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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