Steve Fishwick

 

In The Empire State (Hard Bop 33010)

*****5 Stars

The Fishwick twins have been earning themselves a well deserved reputation for several years now and I gave their previous disc When Night Falls a five star review last year (JJ0414).  The current disc is even better and was recorded in New York after Steve had played engagements at various clubs in the Big Apple including Smalls and Smoke.

All eight tunes were either written or arranged by various members of the band.  Steve himself contributed the opening Jymie, a demanding, fast hard bop opus, and Warne's World dedicated to the late Warne Marsh.  Frank Basile on Baritone takes the commanding opening solo on the bouncing My Blue Heaven which also features fine work from pianist Jeb Patton.  Basile also impresses on his own original Morse Code.  Tenorist Osian Roberts contributed three of the titles including Enid, in waltz time and featuring him and Steve in very impressive style, as does How Deep Is The Ocean.  Lullaby For Eira, a thoughtful ballad, was penned by Roberts as a dedication to his daughter.  

Throughout the proceedings Steve Fishwick proves himself to be a world-class player but all the front-line participants take first-rate solos at various points in the programme.  The rhythm team are far more than just support, enhancing the overall performance in no small measure.  Wonderful, feel good, uplifting jazz, not to be missed.

In The Empire State

The CDs drop through the letterbox daily.  Sometimes my eyes light up with delight but, more often than not, I groan and think, wtf will I make of this?!

I'm pleased to say that this album is very much in the former category.  In fact it epitomises what this site was primarily aimed at:  bebop in the new millennium.  recorded in New York last year after the Fishwick brothers and Roberts, along with New Yorkers Basile, Patton and Karn played several gigs in the Big Apple as part of Dave Douglas' Festival of New Trumpet.

What a richly deserved accolade for Steve who isn't always given his due as one of the UK's finest trumpet players.

Steve can blow, as can long time front line partner Roberts.  Both the Fishwick's and Roberts are able to hold their own in fast company and the company here is very fast indeed!  Basile, an on-call 24 hour Baritone man, displays why he is in such demand and it is to the Brit's credit that they stand tall- shades of tubby's transatlantic forays.  If the album had been released under Basile's name I'd have assumed it was an all American line-up.

Steve provided two of the originals as well as arranging How Deep Is The Ocean.  Osian chipped in with three compositions and Basile had two as well as an arrangement of My Blue Heaven that suggested that 'just honey and me, and baby makes three' now had a hip grandkid!

Lullaby For Eira and Enid are dedicated to Roberts' daughters - they must be lovely to inspire such beauty.  

I first heard Steve and Osian at one of the Scarborough festivals.  Steve and Matt also played an early gig at Hoochie.

This is the real deal.  Good enough for Dave Douglas - good enough for me!

I’m tempted to paraphrase the old musician’s joke about not knowing that there were two 12 o’clocks in the same day when contemplating the Cadogan Hall’s summer-long Out to Lunchseries. Each of these intimate chamber jazz concerts starts at noon on the dot in the Hall’s spacious foyer, and despite what might seem an early start, the audience flocks in, the musicians are ready, the atmosphere is relaxed and almost invariably, the music is compelling.

None more so than with this week’s star trio headed by trumpeter Steve Fishwick with brotherMatt on drums and Mike Gorman on organ. Steve is an engaging communicator but above all, a committed evangelist for hard bop’s heyday, deploying themes by Jimmy Heath, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and most magically for me, by Woody Shaw. The latter’s ‘The Organ Grinder’ with its alluring harmonic movement brought out the best in Steve’s playing, this at once stately, expansive yet exploratory, and always striving, the improvisation taking a linear route around and through the theme, Matt underpinning strongly as Gorman built his own complex response. Having started with Coltrane’s ‘Bessie’s Blues’ with its shapely riff and moved on via Heath’s ‘Far Away Lands’, Steve and company showed their bebop chops on Charlie Parker’s ‘Passport’, a fast-moving line that made the best use of Gorman’s intricacies as the trio found its groove.

What with a couple of his own originals and other pieces by bassists Stafford James and Ron Carter, it can be deduced that there was no allowance here for easy options, and happily, no letting up in the audience’s enthusiasm. What we heard and saw was just strong playing by all three musicians, Steve moving into the high register and then plummeting to the depths as he found new things to say on each of these time-honoured pieces. The 2015 Out to Lunch series finishes this week: look out for more of these midday dates next year.

British trumpeter Steve Fishwick is well known as a fleet and expert bebopper, but his sideman performances in more experimental groups at the last London jazz festival confirmed his sharp ear for other kinds of melodies and structures, and this set of five original pieces and works by Ornette Coleman and Puccini is a fine showcase for his new work. He is accompanied by rugged Ronnie Scott Allstars saxophonist Alex Garnett, and Ross Stanley and Tom Cawley on keyboards. A standout is the leader’s elegantly winding, rhythmically hip tribute to the great American trumpeter/composer Tom Harrell; he explores the Tosca theme Vissi D’Arte with a ringing, expository tone that eventually turns into a Miles Davis sound reminiscent of Sketches of Spain over Matt Fishwick’s drums march; and the Ornette Coleman swinger Una Muy Bonita smartly fuses Coleman’s bright, tumbling melodic shapes with a freewheeling rhythmic alertness. This sounds like the work of an evidently expanding talent.

HARD BOP RECORDS 33008 ****

Steve Fishwick (t); Alex Garnett (ts); Ross Stanley (p); Tom Cawley (kyb); Tim Thornton (b); Matt Fishwick (d)

Steve Fishwick, a most assured trumpeter confident and clarion clear throughout the instrument's range, here delivers his latest batch of largely original compositions with a group of regular hands. A thoughtful player with an ear for the experimental, Fishwick writes in a quirky, unpredictable way which can range from irritating to superb.  I loved his dynamic tribute to Tom Harrell (Harrelin'), but was unmoved by his digressive exercise on the Aeolian mode (Outskirts).  Fishwick shows his paces and invention in the best Hubbard manner on a swift All Or Nothing At All, and evokes the exploratory Miles with a lustrous reading of Vissi D'Arte.  He obviously has a ball playing Ornette Coleman's Una Muy Bonita, while on Rachpu's Blues  band is called on to blow in 7/4 time.  To these ears there'a a little too much elp and sundry keyboard electronics spread about when straight up would be preferable.  Nevertheless, it's a programme where interest outweighs the drab sections.

Steve's collegues are all attuned to his vibe, ensuring a collective togetherness, but it isn't all hard bop despite the label designation (HBR has the unlikely headquarters base of Caerphilly).  Worth a listen if only to admire this trumpeter's undoubted ability.  To hear his melodic fluency, try Linda. 

WHEN NIGHT FALLS

Hard Bop Records 33009 *****

Steve Fishwick and Osian Roberts went to New York in 2007 Where they met up with saxophonist Frank Basile.  Their approaches and ideas blended and it was mooted that they should record together.  This eventually happened last year when thanks to Arts Council funding Basile came over to the UK for an eight date tour during which this excellent disc was produced.  Indeed the six musicians work and blend so well it sounds as if they have been a unit forever.

A bright, boppy Apprehend the Fifth Dwarf, a contrafract to Get Happy, kicks thing off with imaginative, fully involved swinging solos from all; note Osian Roberts on tenor who also wrote the tune.  Lost Cave is a finely wrought ballad penned by Spanish pianist Albert Sanz who also has a commanding solo on Fishwick's Dear Old London Town.  Everybody meshes well on this rather intricate composition.

When Night Falls is a minor opus played over a relaxed Latin beat.  Fishwick's lovely burnished tone on the flugelhorn and Frank Basile's strong contribution on baritone are the highlights here.  Some Other Brothers motors along in majestic fashion and points up the fact that Steve Fishwick must surely rank as one of our best trumpet exponents.  The rhythm section including Steve's brother Matt on drums is top class.  The CD was recorded at Derek Nash's Clowns Pocket studio, thus guaranteeing superb sound.  The five tunes cover most of the hard-bop bases in a most enjoyable manner.  Highly recommended.  

 

Not to be confused with some crude branch of the martial arts, Hard Bop is a straight ahead yet polished jazz style personified by the early groups of drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver. Britain's leading exponents include Welsh tenorist Osian Roberts and the Fishwick twins, trumpeter Steve and drummer Matt, whose group tours the UK this month.

Featured with them on this high quality album are Spanish pianist Albert Sanz and New York baritone saxman Frank Basile. Sanz's expressive keyboard touch reflects Cedar Walton and other modern masters, whilst Basile's angular lines recall the late Pepper Adams.  Steve's trumpet gives the ensembles brassy authority and robert's warmth and fluency evokes a young Tubby Hayes.  four out of a possible five stars.

FISHWICK/ ROBERTS/ BASILE/ SANZ/ WHITFORD/ FISHWICK

When Night Falls

Hard Bop Records HBR 33009

* * * *

Steve Fishwick (t, flh); Osian Roberts (ts); Frank Basile (bar s); Albert Sanz (p); Dave Whitford (b); Matt Fishwick (d).  Rec: July 2013

 

This is the fourth Fishwick-Roberts album on Hard Bop, the previous one having featured Cedar Walton and Peter Washington.  “When Night Falls” is a major step forward and they’ve enlisted a third hornman whom they met up - and played - with in NYC named Frank Basile, who fits in with them like a glove.  A hard-hitter, the facile Frank is obviously a Pepper Adams admirer, while Osian, whose style and sound still recalls the earlier, possibly most feelingful period of Sonny Rollins, is sounding more like his own man.  Steve Fishwick’s solos here – mostly in the upper register – are beautifully played and always excitingly harmonically edgy.  He deserves much wider recognition, too as a composer (two tunes, “Dear Old London Town”, which gets a wonderful groove going and shows Basile at his most melodic and the enthralling title tune, are his) and his arrangement of the haunting “Lost Cave” is another highspot.  “Cave” is composed by the group’s new pianist, Albert Sanz from Spain, who adds yet more modernity to the CD.  Roberts wrote the two up-tempo tracks, with the closing “Some Other Brothers” bringing out everyone’s blues best.  Steve’s twin, Matt is excellent in support, as is Dave Whitford, whose solos are inventive and consistently soulful.  As long as these guys are around, British Bop Lives OK!

Steve Fishwick Sextet

Glasgow Art Club, Rob Adams

There are two ways of interpreting the suggestion that a band "sounds good on paper". One considers the pedigrees of the musicians involved and imagines them working well together, and the other can be deciphered by the actual dots on the pages that comprise the band book. Trumpeter Steve Fishwick's sextet falls into both categories.

A collective history that includes work with jazz luminaries Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Heath, Joe Lovano, Dave Holland, Cedar Walton and Anita O'Day, together with the promotional effort that Bridge Music puts into its Jazz Thursdays series at Glasgow Art Club, produced a standing-room-only attendance. It was on the second of these "sounds good on paper" examples that the band delivered, however.

The writing and arranging, and consequently the ensemble performance, was of a largely high quality, with a version of You Don't Know What Love Is, taken at a faster tempo than usual and borrowed from the great Slide Hampton's pad of arrangements, making particularly good use of the trumpet, tenor and baritone front line.

Fishwick's own Dear Old London Town slyly used the camouflage of its relaxed groove and very effective brass stabs to slip in a devilishly constructed but very effective bridge. And charts by the band's baritone player, Frank Basile (notably the brisk Morse Code) and his sometime employer Jimmy Heath (Togetherness) underlined the horns' well-tempered nature.

"...Steve Fishwick on trumpet reaches for inventive phrasing others would decline to persue, never going for an easy option or well worn cliché..."

Rating: **** (four stars) Proud to have US piano master Cedar Walton on board, yet no way overawed by his presence or by recording in Manhattan's hallowed Nola studio, London's Fishwick twins give good accounts of themselves here. Trumpeter Steve contributes a couple of originals and drummer Matt, who spent five productive years in New York, gels comfortably with Walton and US bassist Peter Washington. Osian Roberts, a Welsh tenorist remarkably close to Hank Mobley's unique sound, also performs well. The hard-bop school of Horace Silver, Art Blakey and Clifford Brown had a timeless quality and these Anglo-American experts are strong enough to keep it alive.

As with the group's previous efforts 'Too Much!' and 'On The Up And Up', the artwork of this latest offering from the Osian Roberts/Steve Fishwick Quintet is knowingly reminiscent of the 1950s Blue Note aesthetic. Acknowledging their stylistic persuasions and primary influences from the outset, Roberts and Fishwick here present a programme that showcases their first-rate ensemble playing and impressive assimilation of hard-bop vocabulary. With pre-arranged horn lines and rhythm section hits abundant, the group's sound on this album is often evocative of such classic hard-bop outfits as the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet and, indeed, Osian Robert's warm tenor sound and long, twisting lines are at times almost uncannily similar to those of the Sonny Rollins of the early 1950s. Meanwhile, Cedar Walton, former pianist Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and star guest on this session, contributes attractive solos to Quincy Jones' ballad, Quintessence, and his own Head And Shoulders, while comping tastefully throughout. Fishwick himself is a technical master of the trumpet. After swaggering authoritatively through his own blues head, Uptown Shuffle, his muted sound on There Goes My Heart combines with his twin brother's lightly swinging brush work to suggest Miles Davis's first great quintet at its most relaxed. The rhythm section is completed by New York heavyweight Peter Washington, whose bass solos sparkle with technical agility and melodic assurance. Music of this sort will sometimes prompt questions regarding the importance of originality and innovation in jazz: what role does improvisation really play in amongst all those licks and quotes? The answer, however, is less important than the fact that this is a hugely enjoyable and completely unashamed master-class in straightahead jazz, and a valuable chance to hear young British talent in the company of an old master.

Fresh off the press. Bam!!! Incredible. These artists are the preservers of the classic ‘Blue Note’ Hard Bop/Be Bop sound of the 1960’s. Every one of their albums are authentic representations of one of the greatest eras of Jazz from THE greatest Jazz label of all. As with their other CD’s, this may as well have been recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1964. Retro? Why not. Classic is really the term to use - there’s not been better Jazz made than that era. This CD captures the spirit perfectly with incredible playing from all involved. Most songs here are originals but may as well be classics. To take the CD to another height it features one of THE all-time legends of Jazz – pianist Cedar Walton (and playing better than ever!), so on all levels there are many reasons why you must not hesitate to buy this

This is a recording made in hard bop's New York heartland by the British sax/trumpet pairing of Osian Roberts and Steve Fishwick – joined by Americans Peter Washington (bass) and Cedar Walton (piano), with Fishwick's brother Matt on drums. Walton, a legendary Art Blakey Messengers pianist and musical director, is one of this idiom's great exponents. You get the drift from Walton's deliciously laidback opening to the first bop-blues opener (Uptown Shuffle), with its Horace Silver stop-time breaks and a great driving bass from Washington. Not far behind Walton, the star of the show is Roberts, whose booming, old-school tenor sound is magisterial and concise, particularly on his own dedication to the late Hank Mobley. Steve Fishwick sounds most comfortable at speed, but he rhapsodises elegantly over the sax countermelody to Quincy Jones's Quintessence, on which Walton also plays a masterly ballad solo of casually-dropped phrase-turns, gentle trills, and canny drifts around the beat. A lively and affectionate set.

Anglo-American collaborations used to be rare. These days they're almost routine, but it still took a coals-to-Newcastle trip to bring about '...With Cedar Walton!' (Hard Bop Records) by the Osian Roberts/Steve Fishwick Quintet. The co-leaders travelled to New York in January 2007 where Steve's twin, drummer Matt Fishwick, was then living, and then corralled the piano great and top bassist Peter Washington into the famed Nola Studios. Steve's notes say nothing about how they persuaded Walton to take a sideman role. No matter, for he plays with wonderful lucidity and riveting swing, the ensembles meshing like the messengers used to do. Fishwick's lines extend well and Roberts's mid period Rollins style tenor is a joy.

For a band obviously inspired by the Jazz Messengers' style of music, this session with former Messengers' pianist Cedar Walton must have seemed like a dream, especially as it was recorded in New York's famous Nola Penthouse Studio. Tenor player Osian, trumpeter Steve, brother Matt on drums and their illustrious guests perform a couple of standards, tunes by Cedar and Quincy Jones and some very convincing original pieces on a very entertaining programme. Smashing notes by Steve complete a thoroughly enjoyable CD.

With a label called 'Hard Bop Records', there's not much doubt about the style of music you're likely to hear, and this is indeed timeless stuff. But if they could be transported back to 1960s New York, this band would upset ideas about what it takes to be a born jazz musician. Roberts has a vigorous yet mellow tenor saxophone style, whilst Steve Fishwick's trumpet crackles with energy. Pianist Olivier Slama, drummer Matt Fishwick and Bassist Dave Chamberlain are equally impressive. There are other young bands playing in this genre but few with such panache.

The Fishwick twins initial impact on record was with Mike Carr's Blue Note Band's 'Stephenson's Rocket' (Birdland). Since then they've received international recognition, thanks in part to Anita O'Day who took them to the States. Steve's front line partner with Carr was Canadian tenorist Steve Kaldestad. here it's Welsh saxophonist Osian Roberts, who is probably better know in the Czech Republic than here in the UK. Their Quintet's conception is rooted in the (more Prestige than Blue Note) early Hard Bop days of the mid-50s. Roberts obviously idolises Rollins' output at that time and his solos here could easily cause a few red faces in a Blindfold Test! There's also, to these ears, an occasional influence of the underrated Lucky Thompson. But his sound is soulfully hard and his solos are full of emotion. Steve Fishwick is probably the more contemporary stylist of the two, but here his role is very much in the vein of the Donald Byrd of the 1950s. He's unquestionably one of the finest trumpeters we've ever had in this country. The originals could easily have been by Rollins, Silver or Timmons, with Roberts' title tune, 'Three Little Words', 'Waltz For Edith' and Steve's 'Roachville' among the most effective. Slama's piano owes much to Garland or Timmons and there's not (for a change) a trace of Tyner, Hancock or Jarrett. The closing slow extended themeless twelve bar, complete with opening Doug Watkins-style walking bass, could have come from any of Bob Weinstock's Friday afternoon sessions at Van Gelder's. This CD is a sincere labour of love with fine musicians paying tribute to the musicians that originally inspired them to get into jazz. Bet a live club date would be really exciting!

Trumpeter Fishwick attracts plaudits from many quarters. Listeners and musicians alike appreciate his poised linear improvisations, following the example of Hard Bop specialists like Bill Hardman or Lee Morgan. Now he's combined with Roberts, a no-nonsense tenor player of the Blue Note school, the labels name a tribute to their prefered jazz genre. Roberts and Fishwick both contribute originals, all stylistically appropriate, some Horace Silverish, including the title track and 'It's a Dunn Deal', named for recording engineer Richard Dunn. Bassist Dave Chamberlain, brother Matt Fishwick's neat percussion and Olivier Slama's Red Garland chording all contribute to the authentic feel. The leader's trumpet line dips and rises before Roberts' warm-toned but asservive solo on 'Blackout', the horns finally exchanging fours with the drums. Rhythmically assured, confidentley played and hugely pleasing, this is old music re-made by young men. And what's wrong with that?

This is a debut recording for the band and for Hard Bop Records, so it's worth saying something about their ethos. Inspiration came from the independant record labels of the post war years. Roberts points out in his notes that many of these recorded bands as if at a gig, usually completing albums in one day without rehearsals. As indicated in my tribute to Jackie Mclean (JR76), some performers were unhappy with this method, but when it worked the results were fresh and immediate, and many listeners felt the sense of being there as it happened amply compensated for any rough edges. 'Too Much!' is a complete vindication of this approach. These days sponteneity and honesty is left almost entirely to small companies. As Roberts says, over production, heavy editing and the use of booths to reduce sound leakage, change the way a group interacts because musicians are denied eye contact and only hear colleagues through headphones. HBR set out to avoid these hindrances, and Roberts credits engineer Richard Dunn (dedicatee of 'It's a Dunn Deal') with re-capturing the virtues of the Van Gelder sound. If all this suggests the musicians are mere archaeologists, the bright, imaginitive playing on this album should quickly disabuse you of this idea. The Quintet originated in London in 1994 when Roberts and the Fishwick twins started a rehearsal band with some ex pat French musicians, including Slama, and steadily built an enviable reputation. The present members hane extensive, impressive CVs (The Fishwicks have been in Anita O'Day's regular group) and whilst its easy enough to spot influences, each of them has enough individuality to demonstrate that bop (after a precarious few years) is a living tradition. Fishwick S and Roberts blend nicely in the ensembles and both are agile, inventive soloists as well as fine composers and arrangers, responsible for all the numbers except, of course, the Gershwins' 'Someone To Watch Over Me'. Chamberlain is a well rounded, articulate soloist and accompianist. Slama works well with him, providing rich, supportive harmony, and contributes some juicy solos too. Fishwick M provides strong flexible underpinning. Salt of the jazz earth and highly enjoyable.

This record label (Hard Bop Records) has a brilliant concept. They like to record their musicians in an open environment, jusy like Rudy Van Gelder did back when Prestige and Blue Note were formidable purveyors of quality jazz. So you have the studio set up and engineers in place. Now all you need is a good band. Roberts and Fishwick's quintet fit the bill. They play hard bop in the same exciting manner that got us oldies parting with our money for those expensive US imports back when we were hip, or thought we were. The sound of the band is caught with startling clarity and the music just hammers home that dynamic Blue Note style. Crisp solos and vibrant rhythm. The tunes are all original except for Gershwin's 'Somebody To Watch Over Me' and they all have melodic themes and substance. Five hard bop masters that are a credit to jazz in the UK proving we are leading the world when it comes to the real thing.

Trumpeter Fishwick takes the lead here on his first-ever quartet album. Piano is omitted in favour of Colin Oxley's guitar, much like the Art Farmer-Jim Hall collaborations, with bassist Dave Chamberlain and drummer Steve Brown rounding out the group. Fishwick is enamoured of the hard bop style of Lee Morgan and Kenny Dorham, and his pristine sound and rapid-fire attack are right on the money - typified by a torrid run on 'Stablemates'. He also recalls Chet Baker's approach on 'That Old Feeling' following Chamberlain's opening theme statement. This is resourceful music with a strong swing feel (bass, drums and Oxley's guitar are spot on), and, like all the best players, Fishwick seems to have time in hand. A terrific recording, and a classy milestone for Fishwick and company.

The Lower Ground Bar in West Hampstead sends you straight into a time-warp, for this is how jazz clubs used to be. There's a doorway with a poster inscribed 'Jazz Resurection', a flight or two of stairs, and a low ceilinged basement room painted a lurid red, the floors scrubbed and bare, a bar at the rear, with assorted musos hanging around. With its 50s-modernist atmosphere, the Lower Ground Bar was the perfect place to hear Steve Fishwick, a young man who attaches great importance to the tradition. Fishwick was launching his new quartet CD (reviewed in Jazz UK 72). The trumpeter's penchant for long lines, and his intense, stinging attack is ideally suited for boppish adventures. Guitarist Colin Oxley matched his every move on the driving original 'Humpin' and Bumpin', and bassist Dave Chamberlain and drummer Steve Brown rocked the joint, almost literally, all night. It was hard swinging music, brilliantly sustained and inventive, whether on ballads or uptempo tunes.

With a tight-knit guitar led trio and a robust style around the Dorham/Morgan mark, Fishwick has an attractively firm (rather than hard) bop sound. A self confessed anti-innovator, the trumpeter weaves through well trodden harmonic woods with winning young fogey assurance and makes an enjoyable case for keeping things as they were in 1956.

The UK sax/trumpet partnership of Roberts and Fishwick keep the flame burning for classic bebop and inevitably their devotion to the runes of the idiom raises the question of why one wouldn't just go straight back to the landmark recordings? The answer is that Roberts and Fishwick have develepoed a loyal following in the UK that will surely want this coolly polished example of their skills. Perhaps more importantly, their work increasingly displays a special signiture, to which a raft of good originals here attests. Fishwick's composition 'The Hit' is a deliciously lissome, long lined mid tempo bop melody, elegantly expanded by his bright-toned trumpet solo and Roberts' drily Hank Mobley-like tenor break. Roberts also brings a reflectiveness and weight to his variations on 'I Loves You Porgy'. Fishwick's 'A Pocketful Of Grease', with its blues shape and funky piano vamp, could have come straght off a 1960s Lee Morgan Blue Note album, but the musicians develop it with canny deliberation - but oddly its the artless lyrical simplicity of 'Swanee River' that's one of the most affecting episodes on the set. This is music at the high end of a jazz persuasion that, although unfashionable, helps keep the scene nourished.

Fishwick and Roberts fell for the Blue Note hard bop style early on, and have never wavered. This is the music they want to play and their modest discography (this is their second CD) testifies to the increasing validity of this now antique genre. Fishwick's 'The Hit' sets the scene with its neat harmonised theme, promting its composer to set up an ambitious, free skating solo. Fishwick likes the long-lined style of Kenny Dorham or Lee Morgan, while tenor player Osian Roberts prefers early Sonny Rollins. French pianist Olivier Slama is a live wire too. Roberts' 'The Road To Philly' sums up their raison d'etre pretty well - this music is delivered with care and genuine passion.

There is something a little discomforting about this record. Recorded in Pontypridd in 2006, it sounds for all the world like the first edition of the Jazz Messengers at the time of their now legendary 1955 engagement at the Cafe Bohemia. Hearing relatively young men tackling pre-modal fare is a little unusual today, but the degree of replication here is quite phenominal. Opening the disc we have 'The Hit', and with very few leaps of the imagination we could be listening to the soundtrack to an action sequence in a mid-50s film noir. I'm always partial to a bit of that, and as an opening statement, it leaves no doubt that Fishwick and Roberts have this era nailed. 'A Pocketful of Grease' is a tight funky 3/4 blues, Fishwick giving a sizable nod in his solo to Donald Byrd. His Flugelhorn feature on 'I Loves You Porgy' shows great maturity and poise, whilst Roberts' 'The Road To Philly' makes a sturdy vehicle for some elegant Mobley-esque tenor. Pianist Slama shows his appreciation of period chord voicings on a trio take of Harold Ousley's rarely played 'Now That I Am So In Love', whilst 'The Knife' is a dedication to Pepper Adams, another genre based original which openly references its source. I'm not sure how many would guess the year this disc was recorded in a blindfold test, so fastidious is the groups approach. Sound engineer Daniel Edwards can take lots of credit for his authentic recording techniques. Avoiding the dramatic studio seperation of instruments, a vintage character is particularly noticable in the ensemble passages. The Valleys are alive - with the sound of bebop anthems!