Alex Hitchcock Quintet: All Good Things

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Today’s album comes from London-born saxophonist and composer Alex Hitchcock who is one of the rising stars of the UK jazz scene. He leads his own quintet, the Alex Hitchcock Quintet that gained a lot of recognition in 2018 after releasing the live EP “Live At The London And Cambridge Jazz Festivals”. The quintet won the first price in the Conad Jazz Contest at the 2018 Umbria Jazz Festival and toured quite intensively in 2018. The momentum and spirit from this period led to the album “All Good Things” which was released on May 31 by the Spanish contemporary jazz label “Fresh Sound New Talent”.

The line-up of the quintet is:

  • Alex Hitchcock – tenor saxophone
  • James Copus – trumpet/flugelhorn
  • Will Barry – piano/keyboards
  • Joe Downard – bass
  • Jay Davis – drums

All songs on the album have been written by Alex Hitchcock. All pieces have been thoroughly “road tested” at festivals and gigs throughout Europe in 2018 and the musicians had a chance to get inside each composition and to improvise freely within them.

The first song on the album is called “Hamburg 2010″ and starts with a rather simple melody with long notes from which the saxophone solo develops over a complex bass and drums groove. Will Barry on piano takes over with a second solo that forces bass and drums to much more dynamics. After an intensive interlude dynamics go back and James Copus plays a beautiful trumpet solo initially accompanied only by piano.

“Mobius” the second song begins with a pushing bass intro over which sax and trumpet play a polyrhythmic melody. The solo-part is a dialog between trumpet and saxophone. Hitchcock comments that: “James is a really inspiring musician to play alongside – one of his explosive solos can lift an entire gig to another level – and I wanted to write a cyclical form that we could trade on and overlap seamlessly while playing on alternate sections”. The song ends with a fantastic drums solo.

“Mint” brings new sound elements. Will Barry is on keyboard and the drums are played rather minimalistic, the horns have a melody mostly in unison with long notes. This song features Alex Hitchcock in laid-back style.

“Adjective Animal” has a simple and beautiful piano intro. One characteristic element of the compositions of Alex Hitchcock are melodies played by the horns in unison with long notes. This song is no exception, but the surprise comes at 2:15 minutes. Groove and sound change and the horns play a much more complex melody. This song features drummer Jay Davis.  Alex Hitchcock has some details: “Jay always finds new ways to approach the same material over the course of a run of performances, making sure the texture and feel of the music is always fresh and original”. The song has also a fantastic keyboard solo and more groove changes towards the end with some interesting drum fills.

“A38″ features Joe Downard on bass, he gets the first solo and we can clearly hear him singing and playing his improvised melody, very nice. The second solo goes to James Copus on flugelhorn. I like his playing very much and this solo is definitely one of my highlights on the album.

“Sorry Not Sorry” comes next and starts with a steady bass and drums groove over which the horns play a twisting melody. Will Barry adds some funky keyboard sounds. James Copus has another chance to pull out all the stops and Will Barry is able to convince us with his keyboard solo.

“Context”, the last song on the album begins with a beautiful piano intro, the melody however is in big contrast to the perfect harmony of the piano. Alex explains: “I wanted the dissonance of the melody to pull the listener’s ear in different directions across a repeated bass line”. The song features Will Barry on piano, he plays an excellent solo on this tune.

An interesting album with excellent musicians, especially James Copus and Will Barry are really impressive. All songs are performed very well and you feel that the musicians have been playing that material for quite some time. The band has a distinct sound and the compositions follow an individual path.

The quintet has received great feedback for its live performances. Please check for yourself with the attached video.

The Alex Hitchcock Quintet is currently on tour in the UK. You can find tour dates on Alex Hitchcock’s website: https://www.alexhitchcock.co.uk/

And again a playlist on Spotify:

Gábor Csordás: Swansong

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Hungarian pianist Gábor Csordás released his excellent album “Swansong” on March 25, 2019. The line-up of this album is truly international with three musicians from three continents:

  • Gábor Csordás (Hungary) – piano
  • Noriaki Hosoya (Japan) – electric bass
  • Marty Risemberg (USA) – drums

Gábor and Nori met 2010 at a jam session in Berlin and felt that they share the same musical vision, so they started playing together, initially with a drummer from Italy.  After recording a demo album and a few concerts the band split up after the drummer lost the motivation for the project. Gábor and Nori moved back to their hometowns, so the project looked like it came to an end. In 2014 Gábor started to play on cruise ships where he met Marty and the idea of the project was revived. In 2016 all three met in Budapest to record this album. After two days of rehearsal the album was recorded in two days. It took Gábor two years to produce the final mix of the album and Hunnia records showed interest and released it in 2019.

The album starts with “Birdseye”, a song with a beautiful theme. The first solo goes to Nori and his six-string Adamovic electric bass, which creates the special sound on the album – acoustic piano and electric bass. This song is already one of my favorites on the album because of it’s melodic theme.

“Breaking Through” comes next. This song was written some years ago and made it on the first demo CD in 2012. Gábor explains: ” It has influences from Charles Mingus and also some more electronic sounds in the latter parts of the song, but during the climax the band really sounds more like a rock band than anything else”.

“Turbulence” is another highlight of the album. It was new to the band when they recorded the album. It stands out with its 5/8 meter and with its Sonata-like structure that resembles the music of J.S.Bach. Gábor has some more details: “Bass and drums play strictly in time, but the piano plays with polyrhythmic or even out of time feel”.

The album continues with “The Panda March”, a soft song with a beautiful melody and a great dynamic ending with an excellent drums solo.

“Trapped Light” is the next song and stays in the same mood as the last song, a very melodic and soft theme, followed by an excellent piano solo with increasing dynamics and a virtuous bass solo.

“Painting with two colors” is in 11/8 meter and has some Hungarian folk influences. The band plays and varies with this unusual meter and Gábor and Marty shine in their solos.

The ballad “Cradle Me” comes next. This song was originally written for a singer and Gábor played it with his synth-pop band “Silence Factory”.

“Play” starts with Nori on bass playing an intro in almost guitar style. This song has a pretty funky-swingy beat and was inspired by Robert Glasper. Gábor told me that other influences of his work are “Esbjörn Svensson trio, Kaltenecker trio and Brad Mehldau, ECM music in general, but with the addition of Marty to the group we started to have an edgy sound especially in the live concerts”. This song is another highlight on the album and also made it on my playlist.

“Koletzki” continues with the straight funky-beat and feeling. This song was inspired by the electronic dance music of Berlin. Again a very dynamic piano solo, bass and drums hold the groove and Gábor enjoys his freedom. An open interlude leads over to the funky theme and a stunning finale of the song.

“If Ever” the last song on the album feels like the encore of a concert after the finale of “Koletzki”. The band shows one more time its mastership with a very rhythmic theme, the pianist enjoys his freedom over a straight drums and bass layer and another excellent drums solo ending the song and the album.

As I said before, I like the combination of the electric bass with the acoustic piano, I also like the classical and very European approach of Gábor’s piano playing together with the straight bass and drums by Nori and Marty.

The band was on tour in Japan in April 2019 and Gábor has some more details: “The tour in 2019 went really well, the band has played in Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto and Tokyo. The first and last show were sold out, and people were really enthusiastic about the music. In Shizuoka there was already a line of people buying CDs during the break. That was an experience I’ve never had before. Japan is a country where people still buy CDs and want them signed. We had to sign quite a lot of CDs.  After finishing the tour we have recorded four new songs in Tokyo, and there are big plans for a release tour in Europe in the fall of 2019, with additional recording sessions, so that the new CD would arrive early 2020″.

So let’s watch out if there is a chance that this band comes to Switzerland, would be great to see them live.

Tour dates are found on Gábor Csordás’ website: https://gaborcsordas.com/

Gábor produced a video during the Japan tour 2019:

Here is a playlist on Spotify to listen to the whole album:

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