Pianist Mike McNaught already had form as an evangelist of pop-inspired jazz, as witnessed on his previous group The London Jazz Four's 1967 Polydor release Take A New Look At The Beatles
. However, on this eponymously titled idiosyncratic marriage of jazz and pop, Atlantic Bridge has a stab at two Beatles numbers and three Jim Webb songs. There's also a final track penned by McNaught himself. Together, reedsman Jim Philip, who'd recorded with Michael Garrick and also the New Jazz Orchestra joined McNaught along with drummer Mike Travis who laid down the, often complex, beat for Gilgamesh and Hugh Hopper tracks, McNaught formed a new rockier London Jazz Four which didn't progress far. However, it did get them signed to Pye's new progressive label Dawn and a contract to record Atlantic Bridge.
The point of difference however was the employment of virtuoso bassist Daryl Runswick who was later head-hunted by John Dankworth. Runswick, one of the finest bass players to emerge from the British jazz scene at that time, was a member of the burgeoning cohort of bass luminaries appearing in the 1960s and early 70s, including Barry Guy
, Dave Holland
, Harry Miller, Jeff Clyne
, Ron Mathewson, Chris Laurence and Jack Bruce
So it is that a ten minute version of "MacArthur Park" kicks off this album with a heavy fuzzy opening sortie progressing to a more relaxed modal middle. Arranged as a four part suite, it variously features ferocious soprano sax and multi-tracked arco bass solos plus some rather dated swooshing echoey sound effects.
The slow burning, somnolent "Dreams (Dreams/Pax/Nepenthe)" also by Webb, originally appeared on The 5th Dimension's 1967 album The Magic Garden
. "Rosencrans Boulevard" again by Webb, featured on The 5th Dimension's debut album Up, Up and Away
, has a better balance between the instruments, but Runswick is still able to insinuate a discrete but florid bass guitar solo here.
Opening in a disguised fashion, George Harrison's "Something" alternates between brief returns to the melody and often frenetic soprano soloing from Philip and equally vibrant bass work from Runswick. The elegant arco bass intro to Lennon and McCartney's "Dear Prudence" gives way to Philip's delicate flute and a neat "Hey Jude"-like ascending bass run before settling into a relaxed groove with Philip now soloing on tenor sax. The final track from the original album, McNaught's elegiac "Childhood Room (Exit Waltz)" offers Runswick more opportunity for what is effectively lead bass guitar soloing.
This reissue comes with two bonus tracks not on the original LP, both of which are McNaught originals. "I Can't Lie To You" and "Hilary Dixon." The former, co-written with Barry Murray, is distinguished by uncredited female backing vocals and more "lead" bass, but this time, unusually, employing unfettered arco double bass. The final track features Philip on flute and is much more jazz-orientated than its pop-infused predecessor.
Rather unfairly panned at the time of its release in some quarters, Atlantic Bridge
presents a frequently imaginative take on jazz rock that exactly reflected the musical zeitgeist prevalent in 1970, the year in which it was released on Dawn DNLS 3014. There's an interesting comparison to be made between this record and the equally obscure J.R.E.
by the German group Jazz Rock Experience, released on Deram Nova (SDN 19) in the same year and which also merits a reissue. Incidentally, "Childhood Room (Exit Waltz)" appeared on the 1971 Dawn compilation sampler The Dawn Take- Away Concert
(Dawn DNLB 3024).
MacArthur Park; Dreams (Dreams/Pax/Nepenthe); Rosecrans Boulevard;
Something; Dear Prudence; Childhood Room (Exit Waltz); Bonus Tracks: I Can’t Lie
To You; Hilary Dixon.
Mike McNaught: piano, electric piano; Daryl Runswick: bass, bass guitar; Jim Philip:
flute, soprano sax, tenor sax; Mike Travis: drums.