Mick Foster – Four Views
(Hainault Records HNT0014. CD Review by Chris Parker)
A real treat, this: a (mainly) baritone-led quartet breezing through a selection of ‘great tunes, all of which come up as fresh as a spring morning’ (to quote Digby Fairweather). Mick Foster (who doubles on C-melody saxophone, a rarish instrument pitched between the tenor and the alto) has recorded with ensembles led by everyone from Stan Sulzmann and Mike Garrick to John Dankworth and Mark Lockheart, but on this (his third recording as leader) he sticks to a mainstream style in which melody, buoyancy and swing (provided by drummer Tristan Mailliot and Empirical bassist Tom Farmer) are the immediately discernible qualities, solos are carefully paced and crafted, and guitar playing (Ontario-born Dominic Ashworth) is matter of clean, single-note picking tastefully interspersed with deftly strummed chords.
Foster himself is a bright, imaginative soloist who exploits his instrument’s grainy, fruity charms perfectly, and his choice of material (by Fields/McHugh, Burke/Van Heusen, Kern or Mandel/Mercer etc.) is impeccable. If you like your jazz warm, tasteful and elegant, without grandstanding (Mailliot, for instance, here restricts himself to brisk, supple, unshowy timekeeping interspersed with the odd traded four with the soloists), this is for you.
Acid test: it made me dig out not only my neglected Johnny Smith CDs (Foster’s quartet do a neat version of ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ here), but also recordings by Gerry Mulligan and Serge Chaloff.