CD review

Petr Cancura with Charlie Hunter & Geoff Clapp – ‘Don’t Let It Stop!’

Petr Cancura with Charlie Hunter & Geoff Clapp – Don’t Let It Stop!
(Roots2Boot Recordings. CD Review by Julian Maynard-Smith)

Don’t Let it Stop! is a live recording created from three performances over 13-15 May 2019 in a loft space in Greensboro, North Carolina. If ‘loft space’ conjures up images of the avant-garde loft-jazz scene of the ’70s, you’ll have to mentally rewind your jazz clock by one or two decades, because this music – despite comprising originals from leader Petr Cancura – is firmly in the tradition of Blue Note and hard bop.

Petr Cancura is a Czech-born tenor saxophonist now residing in Ottawa, and judging by his compositions his influences include Kenny Burrell and Stanley Turrentine (the opener Soulidity in particular sounding as if it could have been lifted from the classic album Midnight Blue); Grant Green (Gettin’ Ready and Don’t Let it Stop! having a similar funky, soulful groove to the Green classic Ain’t it Funky Now); Cannonball Adderley (the closer Good Times being slightly reminiscent of Mercy, Mercy, Mercy); and even sleepy, laid-back country music (Country Song).

Once the heads have been played, the band’s not shy about stretching out, three tunes weighing in at over nine minutes and at times developing a feel of the jam session. Combined with a bright, unvarnished recording quality, close acoustics and scattered applause (suggesting a small but intimate crowd), the overall feel of the album is one of being up close to a jazz band in a small club.

No big surprises, then, in terms of genre and mood. What is surprising is that it often sounds as if you’re listening not to a trio but to a quartet. There’s no question you’re listening to tenor saxophone and the drums of Geoff Clapp (what an apposite-sounding surname for a drummer!), showcased on Here to Stay; but you’d swear you’re also listening to both guitar and bass, and yet only the guitarist Charlie Hunter is listed. The fact is that you are listening to both guitar and bass, and it really is Hunter playing both at the same time, because what he’s playing is the Big6: a hybrid guitar with the lower three strings in the bass register and top three in the guitar register, all on one neck but with separate circuitry for separate amplifiers. It must be a hellishly strange instrument to play, not least because the frets fan out rather than being parallel to each other. And all credit to Hunter, because while the guitar voicings are naturally sparse he really does manage to create the illusion of an independent bass line.

To sum up, if you’re missing the buzz of small-club music up close and raw, or feel nostalgic for ’60s Blue Note, this set will provide good company.

Don’t Let It Stop! will be released on Roots2Boot Recordings on 20 November 2020.

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