Tomorrow’s New Quartet – All Together, Now!
(Ubuntu UBU0110 – Album review by Mark McKergow)
British drummer Rod Oughton assembles a top line-up to perform his neat and varied jazz compositions and delivers a bright and enjoyable post-lude to pandemic privations.
Rod Oughton clearly has his sights set on activities far and wide. In-demand both as a sideman with the likes of the James Taylor Quartet and for West End theatre and international work, he also leads the eight-piece jazz-meets-pop outfit OK Aurora whose debut album Only In Autumn was released in July 2021 (also on Ubuntu – feature by Dan Paton).
On All Together, Now! Oughton moves to a conventional jazz quartet setting for a set of seven-and-a-half original tunes, conceived and written during the pandemic lockdown period and each inspired by some event which interrupted the daily monotony for better or worse. He then set about rehearsing and polishing the work by assembling a superb group of young performers, the cream of the latest talent, to join him.
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Scottish saxophonist Helena Kay is on the way to releasing her second album Golden Sands, having also appeared on Calum Gourlay’s excellent New Ears CD and been a part of Paul Towndrow’s epic Deepening The River project. Hackney’s Deschanel Gordon won BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 and has since been popping up on piano everywhere from Ronnie Scott’s to the New York Winter Jazz Festival, and Flo Moore is a go-to on bass for a range of talent from Kansas Smitty’s to tenor sax blazer Paul Booth (whose new album 44 is also just out).
What really stands out on this album, alongside the quality of the performances, is the range of writing on show. I suspect that Rod Oughton’s range of experience behind the kit in many situations has fed into this versatility, and it’s a refreshing change to hear someone so at home with changing it up and down in his music. The title track opens brightly with a catchy unison melody building into a swinging solo from Deschanel Gordon, the structure built up with pedal breaks in a very satisfying way.
Oughton doesn’t dominate the music by any means – his contributions and solos are woven into the overall fabric of the quartet in a way which doesn’t scream ‘drummer on the loose’ but rather takes his place in the ensemble. Jemstones races along with exciting Latin grooves while The 40th Day builds to anthemic proportions and a beautiful solo from Helena Kay, sumptuous sax tone to the fore. Waltz For Last Year opens with a delicate bass guitar solo, the chord sequence bouncing and sliding around with lovely chromatic shifts. Angelou, written by Oughton after reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in a single day, strides forward with gospely overtones. Eulogy, composed as a tribute to a neighbour with a bass melody, shifts from gentle reflection to swinging exuberance.
All these tunes are very well-arranged with a variety of feels and juxtapositions, and the time flies by. Three High has an afro-beat quality with Kay particularly effective, and The Journey To Your Door develops really momentum with everyone getting a solo and Gordon’s contribution sparkling out. And the half-a-tune? Flo Moore reprises her bass line from Journey as a delightful playout bonus. This a cracking album, young talent, great writing and lots of variety from a classic quartet line-up.
LINK: Preview the music and buy the album on Bandcamp
DATES: 20 June NQ Manchester
21 August: The Royal Albert, 460 New Cross Rd, London SE14 6TJ
Categories: Album reviews