The Patrick Hayes Electric Ensemble – Back To The Grove
(PHEE. CD Review by Peter Jones)
Initially misreading the title as Back to the Groove, I was expecting funk, and as luck would have it, funk there was – right there on the opening track of this slick and highly enjoyable album from trombonist Patrick Hayes. Crackin’ the Whip could easily be the theme music to some late Seventies crime film, Rob Luft contributing crunchy badass guitar as the horns riff away. It’s a big, sophisticated, expensive sound, with a core ensemble of nine: two trumpets, trombone, saxophone, guitar, piano, bass, percussion and drums. And that’s before you add in all the string players and vocalists, of whom more later.
Appropriately, the second track, You Get The Picture, could easily be in the same imaginary film mentioned above. The title track, however, brings on a mellower latin vibe – again very Seventies in feel. The arrangements are lush and silky-smooth, and there are terrific solos from Gareth Lockrane on flute, Reuben Fowler on flugelhorn and Hayes himself on trombone. Towards the end the tune morphs into Philly-style disco, the singers helpfully informing us that ‘we’ve got to get back to the grove.’ According to Patrick Hayes, this refers not to Arnos Grove or Westbourne Grove but Florida’s Coconut Grove, a hang-out from his days studying studio techniques and jazz at the University of Miami. This, I have to tell you, was time well spent.
You can never go too far wrong with Bruno Martino’s Estaté, but here Hayes delivers an arrangement of exceptional gorgeousness, helped in no small measure by the sweet and gentle Bublé-esque vocals of London City Big Band alumnus Billy Boothroyd, floating on a sea of strings. The Miami influence is strong on the Cuban-style Night In The Gables, featuring more flute from Lochrane, and a fine, assured lead vocal from Guildhall graduate Harriet Syndercombe-Court, plus percussion from Jon Ormston.
The album concludes with two more uptempo and highly filmic tracks – the prowling Safe in Berlin and the funky horn and string-laden Barkham.
Back To The Grove was launched at the Jazz Café at the beginning of June. Now that must have been a gig to savour.