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12,535 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 254 of them this year alone and, so far, 105 this month (Feb. 24).

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Album review: Ashton Smith Octet - Further Afield

Ashton Smith (trumpet, flugelhorn, compositions); James Romaine (alto sax); Michael Anning (tenor sax); David Sear (trombone); Francis Tulip (guitar); Will Markham (piano); James Owston (bass); Nathan Jones (drums).

The quality that emerges from Birmingham Conservatoire was very much in evidence last night at Kansas Smitty's when former student and BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Xhosa Cole blew up a Force 9 on both flute and tenor.

That the high standard has been maintained is evident in this download by the Ashton Smith Octet. Francis Tulip is well known in the northeast and Will Markham has also played gigs up here. The rest are relatively unknown quantities - until now that is!

Leader, trumpet player, composer, arranger, Smith based his themes around places he'd visited such as Niagara Falls, Greece, Germany, Belgium and Portugal - a well-travelled young man. 

Powerful, complex scores that reveal the depth of his harmonic knowledge whilst leaving plenty space for the soloists to emerge from the ensemble with all guns blazing.

The Falls (Niagara): Tulip is the first to be heard setting the scene for solos from Smith and Anning. I'm enjoying this and we've only just begun!

Island of the Knights (Greece): Piano, trombone, guitar and drums all solo at length.

A Town Called Aalen (Germany): Luscious alto from Romaine, nice bass from Owston.

The Grand Place (Belgium): A post bop work out over rhythm changes. Sears first up on trombone. Lovely modern sound. Some Coltranic tenor from Anning. He may not actually sound like Trane but to my ears that's the direction he's either heading in or coming from. Solos and exchanges from and between Tulip and Markham round off my favourite track (not that there's a bad one) on the album.

Sunset at Vilamoura (Portugal): A relaxing finale. Romaine's alto and Smith's flugel allow the sun to set in lyrical fashion.

As is becoming more and more the norm these days the album is only available to download but, at £4 (or more if you're feeling flush) for 53 minutes on Bandcamp it's a bargain.

Lance

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