CD review

Julian Marc Stringle and The Dream Band – “Live at CHICKENSHED”

Julian Marc Stringle and The Dream Band – Live at CHICKENSHED
(Merfangle MJMSCD2020 – CD review by Mark McKergow)

Clarinettist and reeds man Julian Marc Stringle presents a lively and varied concert performance ranging from Benny Goodman to smooth jazz with vocals from Jacqui Hicks and a top-class band in support.

Julian Marc Stringle continues his musical journey with this highly enjoyable performance recorded live at the Chickenshed theatre in north London. Stringle has a long pedigree which belies his youthful looks and curly locks. He references Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Buddy de Franco as key inspirations, and a quicksilver style and pure tone comes across right from the off.  He tackles the classic After You’ve Gone solo at great pace before the band enters in a nicely judged backed-off mood. They, and Stringle gather momentum into a Dominic Ashworth guitar solo before another solo clarinet passage and (unusually for the first number) a sprightly drum solo from Mike Bradley.  It’s all very well paced, fast yet relaxed, and oozing confidence.

The rapid swing continues into Airmail Special; the Benny Goodman/Charlie Christian feature is given a funky underpinning for the theme section which gives way to a more conventional feel for the solos from Ashworth (taking some nice proto-bop lines) and Stringle. Pianist Neil Angilley takes it back to the funk feel and makes his work count with some beefy left hand work. Vocalist Jacqui Hicks is welcomed to the stage and give a fine rendition of Donny Hathaway’s Someday We’ll All Be Free, with Stringle turning to tenor sax for a rich texture.  Pequenita is a Neil Angilley original (one of three on the album) co-written with Davide Giovaninni which brings a relaxing Latin 6/4 feel – you don’t hear too much clarinet-based Latin jazz and this is a refreshing summery change.

The variations keep coming. Angilley’s composition The Firefly brings a touch of Shakatak jazz-funk feel (with the emphasis firmly on the jazz side of the equation), while Hicks’ take on Falling In Love With Love swings mightily.  Towards the end of the show we hear Stringle’s own tune LA Sunset, his smooth clarinet dancing with Jacqui Hicks’ voice to a sulty close. The evening closes with Sweet Georgia Brown, with a punchy rhythm and a bass spot for Chris Dodd.

This is a very pleasurable set of music with some of London’s finest working together with new and classic material.  Stringle is clearly a consummate musician with many reeds to his mouthpiece – his second volume of It’s Clazzical, sporting an even wider range of music with strings alongside the band, is due next year.

Britain seems to be having a bit of a clarinet revival moment.  Giacomo Smith features the instrument alongside his alto saxophone with Kansas Smitty’s, his Bunk-Johnson-to-Cecil-Taylor collective of young talent who aren’t afraid to look back and learn. In a recent LJN In Lockdown interview Smith mentioned his admiration for Adrian Cox, a clarinet specialist who loves to focus on older styles of the music. Adrian has been broadcasting his Sunday Service series of solo performances on Facebook during lockdown, playing and talking for over an hour most weeks, often basing the programme around a star of yesteryear like Johnny Dodds or Sidney Bechet – well worth watching.

The CD can be previewed/bought from Julian Marc Stringle’s website

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