, but Phelps has much more of a playful side to his approach and his humor comes across readily on much of this album. He has also made excellent use of his contacts on the UK jazz scene, collecting together a stellar group of musicians including experienced players such as pianist Jonathan Gee and drummer Gene Calderazzo, as well as impressive up-and-comers like bassist Karl Rasheed-Abel. Reed player Shabaka Hutchings features strongly alongside Phelps on the front line.
Phelps' compositions are strong. "Jay Walkin'" has an immediately infectious groove: a hard bop style tune that is reminiscent of the work of Sir John Dankworth
. "Six Degrees of Separation" is less immediate, but eventually reveals itself as it interweaves multiple layers of sound. Hutchings excels on clarinet, trading licks with Phelps' muted trumpet over Gee, Rasheed-Abel and Calderazzo's sensual rhythms. "10 Years" is Phelps' most complex tune, opening and closing with a bop-flavored horn riff, but also featuring passages with a much more free-form feel and a throaty, low-down bass clarinet solo from Hutchings. Calderazzo plays some inventive drums, and guest tenor player Jean Toussaint
's "Blue and Sentimental." Emma Grimes and Caroline Rankin overdub violin and cello parts into a full string section, aided by guest bassist Larry Bartley, while Phelps' trumpet playing is characterized by a rich, breathy tone.
Vocalist Michael Mwenso joins the band on a few tunes, adding to the energy and enthusiasm with an Eddie Jefferson