CD review

Malcolm Strachan – “About Time”

Malcolm Strachan – About Time
(Haggis Records HRCD004. CD Review by Peter Jones)

One of the many pleasures of this new CD from trumpeter Malcolm Strachan is its unashamedly slick, commercial feel. Some might think of this as a criticism. After all, isn’t jazz often the home of tortured art and self-imposed difficulty, and aren’t we a little suspicious of anything that sounds too comfortable with itself, too instantly accessible? More of this anon, but for now let’s simply offer up a bit of background.

Although he started out as a jazz musician, studying at Leeds College of Music, Strachan has spent the last 20 years perfecting his chops in the spotlight with the likes of Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse, Corinne Bailey Rae, the Cinematic Orchestra and Jamiroquai. He’s also found success with The Haggis Horns, a virtuoso funk septet that has been in much demand both collectively and individually as session musicians. But through the years, Strachan had always yearned to write and record a jazz album under his own name. About Time’s title reflects the long journey that has been, and it has been well worth the wait.

The core of his band on these recordings is a trio consisting of George Cooper (piano), Courtny Tomas (double bass) and Erroll Rollins (drums). They are augmented at various times by five other musicians: for example, on the opening track Take Me to the Clouds (heavily featured on Jazz FM in recent weeks), we can also hear Atholl Ransome on tenor saxophone, Danny Barley on trombone, Karl Vanden Bossche on percussion and Richard Curran on string pad. Ransome, Rollins and Cooper are all fellow members of the Haggis Horns, so it’s clear where the road-honed ease and confidence of their ensemble playing comes from.

The funk influence of Strachan’s compositions comes through on tunes like Time for a Change. It’s mostly groove, with an infectious horn riff, but mellow, without the brashness of funk. Mellowness is also achieved with the help of Curran’s string sounds, as on the filmic I Know Where I’m Going, on which I swear I can hear a touch of Herb Alpert from Strachan’s horn. Aline, the tune he wrote in memory of his mother, who died at the age of 38, is another gorgeous, chilled composition.

Quality is evident in every aspect of About Time. The production is pellucid and spacious, and Malcolm Strachan reveals himself as the complete musician with his piano-playing on the lush Just the Thought of You and the quietly reflective closer, Where Did You go? On Aline, he adds his own trombone backings. Classy stuff.

LINK: About Time at Haggis Records

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