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There are times when the second album by a given big band is disappointing when compared to the first. Happily, this isn’t one of those times. This is the more remarkable when one considers that all of the compositions and arrangements on Prelude to the Blues are Ian Pearce’s, whereas his earlier disc, Retrospection (Trip Records 011), enfolded eight well–known standards and such Jazz classics as “Moanin’,” “Cherokee” and “Intermission Riff.” Not only do Pearce’s laudable compositions sprint stride–for–stride in that exalted company, they occasionally outdistance it. Another reason for the album’s success is the presence of a number of eminent alumni from Great Britain’s peerless National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) including, on nine of thirteen tracks, the high–powered drummer Chris Dagley (with Darren Ashford by no means dawdling on the other four). This means, among other things, that ensemble passages are as clean as the proverbial whistle, while soloists are consistently sharp and resourceful. Alto Sammy Mayne is showcased on “Prelude to the Blues” (which calls to mind Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk”), alto Colin Skinner on “Dream Dance,” trombonist Andy Wood on “Blue and Mellow” and “Have You Met Quincy Jones.” The other intrepid improvisers include Dagley, trumpeters Martin Shaw and Mark Armstrong, tenors Adrian Revell and Martin Williams, baritone John Halton and the leader himself at the keyboard. Good as they are, however, it is Pearce’s superlative songs and charts that wrest Prelude from the morass of the commonplace and boost it into the realm of the memorable. To state the case more concisely, a thoroughly pleasurable studio date by a world–class ensemble. They got rhythm, and they got talent to burn — in the words of Ira Gershwin, who could ask for anything more?
Track Listing: Drifting to the Blues; Count Down for Basie; Dream Dance; Blues for the Road; Don
Personnel: Ian Pearce, composer, arranger, piano; Dave Plews, Mark Cumberland, Mark Armstrong, Andy Gathercole, Martin Shaw, trumpet; Cliff Hardie, Andy Wood, Ashley Horton, Pete North, trombone; Colin Skinner, Sammy Mayne, Adrian Revell, Lauren Hignall, John Halton, Martin Williams (tracks 10