Album review

Nigel Price and Alban Claret – ‘Entente Cordiale’

Nigel Price and Alban Claret – Entente Cordiale

(Elsden Music EM05 – CD review by Mark McKergow)

Nigel Price leads another storming twin-guitar session in this collaboration with French-born Alban Claret. They take in some famous and not-so-famous tunes on this delightful outing of cross-channel cooperation.

Nigel Price’s reputation for hard work and lots of it continues with the release of this, his second duelling guitar set in a month. Hot on the heels of the fine Live At Peggy’s Skylight with Italian Alessio Menconi, we find Price in the studio with Alban Claret amid a sensitive quartet. Arriving in London around 2018 from Perpignan via Conservatoires in Montpellier The Hague, Claret has settled down here and stretches out his fingers with numerous projects with the likes of trumpeter Evan Clegg and saxophonist Duncan Eagles.

The pair have selected an interesting repertoire for this date, recorded in March 2022, featuring some classic modern jazz numbers which may not quite be on the standard-standards list. They are joined by Mikele Montolli on double bass and Matt Fishwick on drums for ten tracks of beautifully assembled jazz jubilation. Sam Jones’ blues-with-a-middle-eight Bittersuite kicks things off in a lively fashion. Price lays down the theme (with Claret and Montolli joining him at different moments) and solos first with the blues chops befitting a former member of the James Taylor Quartet. The guitars trade choruses and then fours with drummer Fishwick – which had me on the edge of my seat with the slightly skewed bar structure – and of course it all works out wonderfully.

Woody Shaw’s tune The Moontrane is a good example of a number which doesn’t get pulled out often enough. This version is taken at a good clip with Claret leading off, showing his dexterity and lightness of touch. Price’s tone through the album is a bit darker and chunkier, so the combination is a satisfying and varied listen. Frank Foster’s Simone is another welcome visitor, with Montolli getting a solo spot on bass and Fishwick’s drums keeping up the sprightly pace with fine delicacy.

Charlie Mingus’ Self Portrait In Three Colours is perhaps better known, Fishwick shifting to brushes for a nice four-way conversation between the musicians as the theme unfolds. Other high spots include Herb Ellis’ Blues For Herb, our two guitar soloists nodding to one of the very best and drawing on his bluesy style. Bill Evans Time Remembered, one of the piano master’s signature pieces, is given a beautiful rendition with Claret leading the theme and stretching out with all the time in the world. Kern and Mercer’s I’m Old Fashioned is given a slow introduction by Price, leading to a romping 12/8 take which swings beautifully.

This is the latest chapter from Nigel Price as he boldly fans the flames of the classic jazz tradition; fine musicians sharing space and creating something engaging, enjoyable and extending their talents to the listening public. Catch them where you can during the coming months.

LINK: “Bittersuite” in the studio – Facebook video

Buy Entente Cordiale on Bandcamp

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