CD reviews

Andy Hague’s Double Standards – ‘Release’

Andy Hague’s Double Standards – Release (Self-released and available from Bandcamp. CD Review by Denny Ilett) Andy Hague has been a mainstay of the Bristol and South West’s jazz scene for over 25 years. One of the finest trumpeters (and drummers!) to emerge from that part of the world, Hague is also a tireless educator; leading workshops and masterclasses alongside his single-handed running of Bristol’s Be-Bop Club, that small but vitally important oasis for local and touring groups, for more years than he’d probably care to remember. As a bandleader/composer, Hague has found a place in several groups covering his multitude of musical interests. The Andy Hague Quintet, Big Band and Conjunto Gringo are just three of his regular outlets. Another ensemble, Double Standards, features Andy in a piano/bass/drums quartet which skilfully blends his original compositions with those from the American Songbook and the pens of some of his jazz heroes. With this new release, entitled Release, Andy has produced an album that, frankly, wouldn’t be out of place in the Blue Note catalogue of the mid 1960’s. ‘Release’ was recorded during that little ‘golden period’ between lockdowns in the autumn of 2020. With the absence of any gigging opportunities for the material, the group have, nevertheless, managed to achieve a cohesion in the studio normally only gleaned after a steady stream of public performances. Hague also mixed and mastered the album which has a beautiful, open, live sound sadly lacking from many jazz recordings these days. Topically titled originals such as Angst and Easing Restrictions show Hague and his primary soloing partner, pianist Jonathan Taylor to be masters at the kind of modal blues so prevalent in those classic Blue Note LP’s. You Go To My Head and Like Someone In Love demonstrate Hague and Taylor’s beautiful lyricism alongside one of the albums standout tracks, Nick Drake’s River Man, which the quartet remould into a potential future standard. A Reckless Majority has echoes of Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder which contrasts with the gentle swing of This Is The Moment. Blue Swinga, the most up-tempo piece in the set shows the whole group at their hard-driving best whilst the loping jazz-waltz of United confirms that, as a suite, the band have programmed carefully how each track sits with and complements the next. Admirable support is supplied by bassist Henrik Jensen and drummer Gwilym Jones. Both play with great sensitivity throughout the album; laying back when needed yet also pushing and prodding the soloists along as their improvisations unfold. Recorded over just two days at Crescent Records Studio, Swindon this record exudes the type of group interplay, spontaneity and flow that can only be realised when a band is in one room recording together, listening to each other, reacting in the moment. When the live jazz scene opens up again I would expect to see Double Standards on a nationwide tour promoting this album. It has the kind of intimate yet explosive quality that club audiences are going to love! LINKS: The album is available at: Andy Hague’s Bandcamp

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