Andy Hague: Cross My Palm (2012)
England's West Country isn't quite as glamorous as America's West Coast, but an innovative music scene has emerged there, especially around the city of Bristol: Massive Attack, Get The Blessing, saxophonist Andy Sheppard, for a start (and singer/songwriter Robert Wyatt was also born in Bristol). Now add Andy Hague to the list. Cross My Palm is a straight-ahead jazz album that bristles with energy, fun and great groovesand swings like a very swinging thing too.
Hague wrote all of the tunes, inspired in many cases by his favorite players. Sometimes it's possible to spot the players in question just by reading the song titles: "For Kenny Dorham" is self-evident, "Green Leaf" is a nod to Dave Douglas' record label, the gorgeous 5/4 "Cross My Palm" (recorded, like "For Kenny Dorham," live at Bristol's Be-Bop Club) is a little trickier, but the tune soon makes its debt to pianist Horace Silver obvious.
Hague's a fine trumpeter and flugelhorn player who's played with Portishead and runs the Silver tribute band Silverado. He's blessed with a purity of tone and a precision that extends throughout his instruments' rangedemonstrated here by crystal clear solos on "The Boss" and "Tranquil Moments." His band mates are equally impressive: saxophonist Ben Waghorn combines well with Hague in the front line and adds a fiery tenor solo to "Cross My Palm" and funky one to "Drip Drop"; Will Harris and Mark Whitlam make a relaxed but swinging bass and drum pairing; and Jim Blomfield beefs up the rhythms with some strong chordal playing, and contributes sparkling solos to tunes such as "Green Leaf" and "Tranquil Moment."
"Lost and Found" is a driving Latin bop number with excellent solos traded between Hague, Waghorn and Whitlam. Hague wrote the tune in 2006, but left it unused on his computer because, as his self-effacing note states, it was "too unoriginal." Hague rediscovered the tune in 2011 when "I had sufficiently lowered my artistic standards to print it out and give it a name." On this evidence, Hague should scour his hard drive more often.
Hague's guests also contribute to the high quality music. Jake McMurchie (from Get The Blessing) adds punch to "Green Leaf," while on the gentler Cuban sway of "Tranquil Moment" he draws on a softer and more sensual style. Vocalist Brigitte Beraha appears on "Tranquil Moment" and its shorter relative, "Tranquil Moment (Radio Edit)." She has a light, almost hesitant, style that perfectly fits the song's low-key sensuality.
Cross My Palm is full of fresh, exciting and immensely enjoyable tunes, often with an authentic feel of classic hard bop. It's yet more evidence of the vibrancy of the music scene around Bristol. Clearly, the West Country vibe is in the ascendancy.
Track Listing: Drip Drop; Darkness; The Boss; Tranquil Moment; Cross My Palm; For Kenny Dorham; Green Leaf; Hands Up; Lost and Found; Tranquil Moment (Radio Edit).
Personnel: Andy Hague: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ben Waghorn: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Jim Blomfield: piano; Will Harris: double bass; Mark Whitlam: drums; Jake McMurchie: tenor saxophone (3, 7); Brigitte Beraha: vocals (4, 10).
Record Label: Ooh-Err Records