John Wheatcroft – First Light
(Self-released. Album review by Nigel Price)
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It’s long been known that there’s an amazing guitarist lurking in Liverpool by the name of John Wheatcroft. We don’t hear too much about him down here in the Big Smoke but when he does surface he’s always doing something utterly incredible, be it burning with fusion fire alongside the likes of Frank Gambale, Mike Outram or even Billy Cobham amongst others (!) or fizzing around the fretboard with gypsy jazz legends such as Stochelo Rosenberg, Paulus Schäfer, John Jorgenson and Angelo Debarre. Literally legends.
He also somehow finds the time to be one of the greatest jazz guitar educators we’ve ever had here, with regular contributions to Guitarist magazine and other international publications, as well as being Head of Guitar at BIMM, London. I reckon there has to be more than one John Wheatcroft…
I had the pleasure of meeting him and he comes across as one of the most driven and passionate musicians I’ve ever met, as well as a super nice guy.
Given his dazzling CV and achievements I was totally intrigued to hear what his new record ‘First Light’ would sound like. Whilst I was waiting for Royal Mail to get their act together I imagined all sorts of weird and wonderful, possibly even raucous things. Nothing could have prepared me for this though.
This is a beautiful, often quiet and considered collection of John’s own fabulous compositions, played with a cool head and faultless, breathtaking technique. There’s nothing gratuitous in the improvisations though, and there’s always complete focus on the music as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, he ain’t being no slouch! John’s relaxed approach belies the sheer difficulty of some of the playing. There’s some really fantastic guitar work going on here.
There’s a clear leaning toward the Django-esque side of him but you couldn’t say that this is a gypsy jazz album. Sure, tracks like ‘Full Swing’ and ‘One Over The Eight’ totally go there, but even then there’s still something else, a fresh angle brought in from this fine guitarist’s huge range of experience and tastes.
He’s not afraid to take all the time he wants to over things and that only adds to the relaxed feeling that runs through this whole delightful record, especially on the aching, insistent gypsy bossa title track ‘First Light’ and the ethereal ‘End Of Every Road’.
Mark Rose is laying down that big, beautiful, chunky double bass and he’s given a couple of opportunities to shine, showing us why he’s such a busy boy! I see some of the record was recorded in Mark’s very own ‘Rokit Studios’ in London too.
I like the mix. It would have been too easy to soak this recording in really expensive reverb. It’s always a temptation with drumless music that few seem to be able to resist but I think would have detracted from the music and taken away the feeling of intimacy.
John’s playing his Benedetto Bravo through the pick up for most of the album but for two of the tracks he’s playing solo, using his Aylward guitars. These tracks, ‘Unclaimed Treasure’ and ‘Already In The Past’ are just so strong and so well played that I can’t help wishing there was just a little more of it. I hope John won’t mind me saying that…
- Full Swing 2:40
- Everything On 4:55
- Unclaimed Treasure 2:17
- First Light 6:16
- End Of Every Road 5:38
- King & Queen 4:39
- One Over The Eight 4:52
- Butterfly 4:51
- Tin Roof Soul 4:28
- Already In The Past 2.02
LINKS: To order a CD http://johnwheatcroftguitar.com/2022/11/cds-available or Amazon