The Great Wee Band – Light Blue
(Trio TR589.CD Review by Chris Parker)
The Great Wee Band (christened thus after an early gig by guitarist Jim Mullen) exists to play what might be termed classic jazz (standards, established jazz originals, the odd in-band original in keeping with same) in a dignified, thoughtful but none the less virtuosic and vigorous manner.
In addition to Mullen’s cultured, classy playing, this album showcases the burnished, full-toned lyricism of Henry Lowther‘s flugelhorn and the pinpoint accuracy and fluency of his trumpet playing; the unobtrusive but impeccable bass of Dave Green, and the tasteful propulsiveness of drummer Stu Butterfield (plus the elegant saxophone of Stan Sulzmann on three tracks).
The material ranges from out and out classics (Ellington’s ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ a ravishing opener beautifully interpreted by Lowther, Gershwin’s ‘I Loves You Porgy’, standards such as ‘I Wanna be Loved’, ‘You’re My Thrill’ and ‘For Heaven’s Sake’) to slightly less well-trodden ground (Monk’s title-track, Ahmad Jamal’s ‘New Rhumba’), plus compositions from Johnny Mandel (‘Emily’ and Henry Mancini (‘Dreamsville’), but what is more important than the matter is the manner of the playing.
As the cover’s photographs suggest, this is a band that is totally at ease with itself and its remit, which is to address the core jazz repertoire employing core jazz values: total familiarity with the material that in no way compromises freshness and originality, mutual responsiveness and respect, all the qualities that add
up to merit that rarely applied adjective, ‘musicianly’.