Mo Foster and Friends In Concert
(RTR171C. Album Review by Adam Sieff)
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As one of the world’s premier electric bass players, Mo Foster commands the respect and admiration of his peers. Although he has excelled in sideman and session musician roles for the major part of his career, it is as bandleader that he is featured here. And he has a clear vision of what he wants to achieve with his ‘Gil Evans in miniature’ concept, and to bring it to a satisfying realisation with this group of superb and highly experienced musicians: guitarist Ray Russell, keyboardist Jim Watson, saxophonist/clarinettist Chris Biscoe, drummer Nic France and percussionist Corrina Silvester. Foster says, ’I chose these players simply because they were the best.’
Released a few months ago, this is 2CD set features 15 live performances recorded at a number of UK venues from 2015 onwards, before being compiled and mixed by Foster over a 15-month period. The one remaining track is a version of Steve Swallow’s Chickens that was subsequently recorded by the musicians remotely during lockdown with the addition of fiddler Chris Haigh. Swallow himself loved the results, and it makes a refreshing last track for the album.
The rest of the repertoire features three original pieces by Foster, one cowritten with Russell, one with Linda Hoyle, and there are choice compositions by, among others, Gil Evans, Mike Gibbs, Carla Bley, Jimi Hendrix and Wayne Shorter.
The recorded sound is uniformly excellent, especially considering the different locations and engineers. It’s important, as this group’s electric jazz direction is very hi-fi musically with each musician’s sound so clearly defined in the mix. Foster’s bass is at the centre of everything and locks in with France’s drums and Silvester’s percussion to create a resplendent groove that makes tracks like Mike Gibbs’ And On The Third Day and Eddie Harris’ Freedom Jazz Dance such a pleasure.
Among the other highlights are a fine version of Gil Evans’ The Pan Piper, featuring some beautiful playing by Biscoe and a fierce Russell solo while Watson’s electric piano lights up Wayne Shorter’s Footprints. The role of Russell’s guitar playing and use of effects combined with Watson’s keyboards adds to the different sonic landscapes and moods. There’s inspired soloing from everyone, but it’s the leadership of Foster, the focus and togetherness of the ensemble playing that leaves a lasting impression of this album, never more so than on the excellent Foster/Russell composition So Far Away.
Foster has compiled this nicely balanced set extremely well, it’s a fitting reminder of just how good this band are live. Hopefully they’ll be able to pick up where they left off sometime soon.
Categories: Album reviews