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Alex Hitchcock: Dream Band Live In London

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Alex Hitchcock: Dream Band Live In London
Viewed in retrospect, the abiding memory of 2023 is that it produced too many jazz albums prioritizing technical facility over emotional engagement. In London, New York and elsewhere (but not, so it seemed, in Chicago), musicians appeared to focus on virtuosity rather than feeling. Dullsville. For the record, some of those albums that did put soul on, at the least, an equal footing with cerebralism, are to be found in the Best Albums of 2023 round-up which can be read here.

Though released towards the end of 2023, London-based tenor saxophonist Alex Hitchcock's Dream Band: Live In London did not arrive in time to make it into that Best Of list. But it belongs there. A triple-disc set, recorded at the Vortex club over three nights in August 2022, the album is defined by venturesome in-the-moment creativity, of pushing the boat out and damn the consequences. Watch the YouTube below, through the bass, trumpet, tenor and vocalese solos, and feel the excitement. There is technical excellence, too, but always at the service of the message, not as an end in itself. Thrillsville.

This time out, Hitchcock's Dream Band is three discrete line-ups, each of which was recorded at the Vortex on a separate night. Band one is completed by trumpeter James Copus, vibraphonist Lewis Wright, pianist Kit Downes, bassist Conor Chaplin and drummer Marc Michel. Band two is vocalist Liselotte Ostblom, trumpeter Mark Kavuma, guitarist Rob Luft, bassist Rio Kai and drummer Jamie Murray. Band three is trumpeter Alexandra Ridout, guitarist Ant Law, Downes once more on piano, bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer James Maddren.

Having recorded the three line-ups, Hitchcock rejected the easy option of programming the three discs chronologically, night by night, instead sequencing the 20 tracks to produce a single, overarching, 150-minute artifact. Partly because all the tunes are Hitchcock originals, and partly because of consistencies in the line-ups (each is fronted by tenor and trumpet, for instance), it all hangs together coherently.

A track-by-track review would be tedious. Suffice it to say that the individual tracks encompass impressionistic soundscapes and angular abstraction, never being exclusively one or the other, and that most are partway between the emollient and the abrasive, the warm and the chilly. The diversity encourages all the players to venture beyond their comfort zones, perhaps most particularly the trumpeters and guitarists.

In the relatively short time in which Hitchcock has been making his mark in London, his albums—either under his own name or as a collaborator with, for instance, Ant Law—have been ambitious in concept and content. Dream Band: Live In London is probably the most ambitious of them to date. And it works superbly. Highly recommended.

Track Listing

Disc 1: Abaqua; Verglas; Oblique; Cakeism (Intro); Cakeism; Cakeism (Alternate Take). Disc 2: Momentum; Grace (Intro); Grace (Part 1); Grace (Part 2); Cat Circles; Red (Intro); Red; North Field. Disc 3: Rio; Brocken (Intro); Brocken; Lift; Sach; Differentials.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Alex Hitchcock: tenor saxophone; James Corpus: trumpet (1:1, 2:1, 2:5-7; 3:2-3); Mark Kavuma: trumpet (1:2, 2:2-4, 3:1, 3:5); Alexandra Ridout: trumpet (1:3-6, 2:8; 3:4, 3:6); Lewis Wright: vibraphone (1:1, 2:1, 2:5-7; 3:2-3); Liselotte Ostblom: voice (1:2, 2:2-4, 3:1, 3:5); Rob Luft: guitar (1:2, 2:2-4, 3:1, 3:5); Ant Law: guitar (1:3-6, 2:8; 3:4, 3:6); Kit Downes: piano (1:1,1:3-6, 2:1, 2:5-8; 3:2-4 3:6); Conor Chaplin: bass (1:1, 2:1, 2:5-7; 3:2-3); Rio Kai: bass (1:2, 2:2-4, 3:1, 3:5); Orlando Le Fleming: bass (1:3-6, 2:8; 3:4, 3:6); Marc Michel: drums (1:1, 2:1, 2:5-7; 3:2-3); Jamie Murrary: drums (1:2, 2:2-4, 3:1, 3:5); James Maddren: drums (1:3-6, 2:8; 3:4, 3:6).

Album information

Title: Dream Band Live In London | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings


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