The Alex Hitchcock Quintet's first record, Live at the London and Cambridge Jazz Festivals, was released in 2018 as an EP on Mondo Tunes. But at around 40 minutes this could easily have passed muster as a pukka LP. It was also a very impressive debut indeed, captured live from gigs performed in 2016 and 2017 at London and Cambridge respectively. Londoner Hitchcock attended the North London Weekend Arts College (WAC) where several British jazz stars began their careers, including Courtney Pine and Julian Joseph. He studied English Literature at Cambridge University where he became director of its jazz orchestra. But following Cambridge he studied jazz at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating in 2016.
The opener "Hamburg 2010," is prototypical of this exquisitely subtle collection of tunes. It is characterised by its warm ensemble passages, harmonically evinced by the twin horns. Hitchcock's opening salvo on tenor is compelling, as is James Copus' mellifluous flugelhorn solo. Hitchcock and Copus engage in an exciting exchange of lines on "Möbius" before Will Barry consolidates the piece with a buoyant acoustic piano foray. A sonic change is heard on "Mint" with Barry switching to the tintinnabulation of a Fender Rhodes, over which the front line establishes a labyrinthine theme. Here Hitchcock's tenor solo is satisfyingly confident and wide-ranging. The deceptively sedate start to "Adjective Animal" suddenly gives way at around 2'28" to a more urgent dynamic, embellished by a rapid, serpentine ensemble head.
Joe Downard's bass solo on "A38" is augmented by his singing in unison to the notes, a technique favoured by Major Holley, Slam Stewart and Coleridge Goode. On the ensuing "Sorry Not Sorry," Downard's resonant pizzicato bass line provides vital anchorage, contrasting sharply with the fast-paced sax and trumpet unison lines. Dominated by Barry's lustrous acoustic piano, the closer is a longer version of "Context," previously heard on Live at the London and Cambridge Jazz Festivals. All Good Things is the clearest indicator to date of the stratospheric trajectory on which this super-talented quintet is indubitably heading. But in stark opposition to the truncated aphorism of its title, this album represents the beginning of what is bound to be a happily burgeoning future.
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