British saxophonist Dave O’Higgins’ Biggish Band is what we used to call a tentet — but the ensemble is having so much fun playing his picturesque and always interesting charts on Big Shake Up
that we won’t hold it against him. O’Higgins the composer draws on a number of influences from traditional and contemporary Jazz to funk, rock, Latin and whatever else enters his quick and resourceful mind. The music he writes is always rhythmic and consistently melodic; in other words, emphatically modern, sometimes quirky but assuredly not “free.” While each selection has something special to offer, according to one’s preference, our personal favorite is the fleet–footed “High Price,” shadowed closely by the Latin–style charmers “Old Self” and “At Long Last.” Least satisfying is the frenetic finale, “Splatter Matter,” on which keyboard specialist Jim Watson and guitarist Mike Outram produce all manner of disagreeable noises while drummer Winston Clifford and percussionist Pete Eckford hammer away on their respective kits and O’Higgins tries (with minimal success) to outshriek them on his alto sax. “Big Shake Up,” which opens the session, is a funky march that brings to mind the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Next up is “Old Self,” whose luminous flute / soprano voicing is underscored by its insistent Latin beat, followed by “At Long Last,” “Are You Mad?” and “High Price.” Completing the program is “Round and Round in Circles,” a pretty ballad embellished by Martin Shaw’s flugel, Outram’s guitar and O’Higgins’ soprano. Each of the sidemen is an enterprising soloist, and there are bracing choruses along the way by Outram and trombonist Mark Nightingale (“Shake Up”), Outram and trumpeter Martin Shaw (“At Long Last”), Watson (organ) and baritone Alex Garnett (“Are You Mad?”), Garnett, Shaw and Nightingale (“High Price”), Shaw (flugel) and Outram (“Circles”). O’Higgins adds a sturdy voice on soprano (“Old Self,” “Circles”), tenor (“Shake Up,” “At Long Last,” “Are You Mad?,” “High Price”) and alto (“Splatter Matter”). An auspicious debut by a versatile and talented young musician from whom we’ll undoubtedly be hearing much more as time goes by.
Contact:Candid Productions Ltd., 16 Castelnau, London SW13 9RU, England. Phone +44 (0) 181 741 3608; e–mail email@example.com; web site, www.candidrecords.com