Mark Lockheart – Ellington in Anticipation
(Subtone Records ST802. CD Review by Chris Parker)
As anyone who’s heard composer/arranger Mark Lockheart’s previous Subtone release, Through Rose-Coloured Glasses (1998), will already know, the ex-Loose Tubes, -Perfect Houseplants and current Polar Bear saxophonist is (like the eponymous inspirer of this album) a superb deployer of individual jazz voices.
Alongside his own poised, assured, emotive tenor, he has assembled a crack band – Finn Peters(alto/flute), James Allsopp (clarinets), Liam Noble (piano), Emma Smith (violin), Tom Herbert (bass) and Seb Rochford drums – able not only to negotiate Lockheart’s subtle (re)arrangements of Ellington classics (the opening ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)’ a delightful rhythmical reworking, ‘Come Sunday’ suitably hymnic, yet intensely personal, ‘Mood Indigo’ and ‘Creole Love Call’ intriguingly original reinventions) but also confident enough to stamp their own considerable personalities on the music.
Noble in particular shines throughout, his adventurous playing bringing his own recent Basho explorations of Brubeck’s works to mind, but all the other participants are also tellingly featured on both the Ellington fare and Lockheart’s own compositions, which often teasingly reference the great bandleader’s work (‘My Caravan’, for instance, obliquely incorporates Juan Tizol’s theme only after an absorbing multi-textured collective improvisation) while remaining distinctively Lockheartian: intelligent without ever straying into archness, punchily accessible, but unpredictable and complex.
Powerfully propelled by one of the tightest rhythm sections in UK jazz, this is a rich, rewarding – and often surprisingly radical – set, impeccably performed by a vigorously interactive band.