Wild Card – Life Stories
(Top End Records TER0004CD. CD Review by Peter Jones)
There’s an early scene in the 1968 film The Odd Couple, in which a morose Jack Lemmon, having failed in a suicide attempt, visits the Metropole Café, a go-go bar, to watch the dancing girls. Standing in a long line across the stage is a hip band whose music was written by Neal Hefti, and that’s the band I think of when I listen to Wild Card.
It’s been nearly three years since Wild Card’s last album, Organic Riot, and in the interim the formula hasn’t changed all that much: there’s still a sparky, live feel to the tracks – perhaps because blowing is the main raison d’être of this band – and in pursuit of that goal, its leader, guitarist, songwriter and producer Clément Régert has hired some top sidepersons to play alongside permanent members Andrew Noble on Hammond B3 and Sophie Alloway on drums. Percussionist Will Fry and trumpet supremo Graeme Flowers appear throughout, alto saxophonist Jim Knight is on most tracks, and the rest feature at various times Mary Pearce on vocals, Carl Hudson on synth, Denys Baptiste on tenor, Alistair White on trombone and Adam Glasser on harmonica.
If you’ve never heard Wild Card, their approach is the diametrical opposite of navel-gazing jazz. In other words, it’s good-time music with simple riffs, upbeat grooves and blistering solos. Among his own compositions Régert has included arrangements of the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black and Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall – legacies, I would guess, of a youth spent listening to Parisian jukeboxes.
Tragedy has haunted Régert’s family life in recent years, and this has provided the backdrop to some of the songs, notably Mommy Is In The Sky, sung by Mary Pearce. Yet as his many friends will testify, Clément is remarkably positive by nature, and even the tone of this tune is regretful rather than mawkish. Other notable tracks include the one that follows – the fast waltz Risky Business, featuring Adam Glasser. The album ends with Herman’s Hoedown, a ‘bonus track’ written by Andrew Noble.
The best way to enjoy Wild Card is to see them live and, as luck would have it, they are launching this album on Saturday at Café Posk.