University of Kentucky jazz professor Miles Osland's third recording as a leader combines his lyrical saxophone phrasing with the rhythm section of pianist Bill Anschell, bassist Neal Starkey, and drummer Woody Williams. Anschell and Williams are two-thirds of Nnenna Freelon's latest rhythm section. The parallel between Osland's lyricism and the well-known singer's is worth considering: both are capable of displaying lovely sounds as well as stirring up the improvisational pot whenever they feel the need. The unusual title for this recording stems from an NEA Fellowship that Osland received, which placed him in England for a period of composing, performing, and teaching. Snapes is a town in Suffolk county where an old malting , or brewery, had been converted to an arts academy; while there making jazz, Osland enjoyed a refreshing alcoholic beverage, an Old Speckled Hen.
On tenor, especially on "Chelsea Bridge," Osland evokes Ben Webster with an expressive lyrical charm and a deep resonant tone. On alto, such as on the title track, he uses the brighter timbre to infuse a spirited, blues-based charm. The leader adds variety to the session with soprano for Anschell's "One More Mile" and flute for "Jazz At The Cliff." As the quartet performs pianist Bill Evans' "Peri's Scope," more time is dedicated to Anschell's keyboard style, which features a powerful, deliberate left hand and rapid, seamless right hand. Starkey takes an energetic bass solo on "Coffee In the Crypt" ("The Crypt" is a coffee shop) and drummer Williams trades fours on "Jazz At The Cliff" ("The Cliff" is a nightclub).
As all responsible teachers would like to do, Osland introduces one of his students on this recording. Bryan Murray performs two brief solo tenor saxophone pieces, "Hillside Dr." and "Reflections," with impeccable range control and an ideal tone. (You can get more information about this new release from Miles Osland's web site athttp://www.saxophone.org/miles/miles.html or from the record label at Open Loop Records, P.O. Box 206, Medfield, Massachusetts 02052.