Roger Beaujolais Quartet – Sunset
(Stay Tuned ST010 – CD review by Mark McKergow)
After an energetic 30 years on the scene, vibes stalwart Roger Beaujolais’ 19th album is a highly satisfying mix of originals and a few well-chosen classics performed with flair and class. Older readers may recall Beaujolais from his early jump-jive with The Chevalier Brothers and his grooving acid jazz hits. Since the turn of the millennium he has focused on acoustic jazz, and this CD is another chance to join him and revel in some top-notch vibes smoothness.
The album contains six Beaujolais originals, starting out with Unlucky For Some, an attractive rolling lope with the walking bass of Simon Thorpe well up in the mix. Robin Aspland (born, like Beaujolais, in Yorkshire) provides exemplary support as well as sparkling solos and incisive rhythmic drive which propels the band along. This drive, combined with the propulsive drumming of Winston Clifford, means that the music is never in danger of losing its way.
The straightahead feel continues with Benign Tonightwhich, contrary to the expectations promised by the title, offers a driving piece of modal work with Clifford backing up Beaujolais’ vibes in an Elvin Jones fashion – very pleasing, with Clifford unquestionably powerful without at all taking over the soundscape. In contrast, And When You Smile is a delightful floating trip around the bay with some excellent vibes work sustaining the summery mood.
The first non-original is a snappy take of Cole Porter’s I Love You. Once again Beaujolais leads from the front with some smart and enjoyable dexterity with the mallets. Other standouts include Beaujolais’ ballad In The Meantime, where he takes the chance to stretch out, and Bobby Hutcherson’s jazz waltz Little B’s Poem, a tune originally released as long ago as 1965, which sounds fresh and at home with this talented group. Jerome Kern’s evergreen Yesterdays gives a fine close with Winston Clifford finally let loose at the drums.
This is a terrific no-nonsense album of exciting and relaxing jazz which once again shows Roger Beaujolais to be both a fine player and an essential member of the UK jazz scene. Long may his butterfly valves rotate.
The album launch gig is on Saturday 3 June 2017 at Jazzlive at the Crypt
St. Giles Church, Camberwell Church St, Camberwell, London, SE5 8JB.