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Album Review

Olie Brice Trio / Octet: Fire Hills

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Olie Brice Trio / Octet: Fire Hills
This two-CD Olie Brice release features very different discs—one featuring five tracks, which total forty-five minutes, by the trio of Brice on double bass plus Tom Challenger on tenor sax and Will Glaser on drums, while the other has three tracks, totalling forty-eight-and-a-half minutes, by an octet comprising Brice and drummer Johnny Hunter plus two trumpets and four saxophones. The two groupings were studio-recorded in July and November 2021, respectively. As always with Brice-led ensembles, his strengths are the quality of his own playing, his compositions, and his ability to select bandmates who work together as a coherent, compatible unit.

All seven compositions here (the title piece "Fire Hills" is heard twice, a trio version opening the album, an octet version closing it) are credited to Brice alone. As if to emphasise that these groups both play in the jazz tradition rather than improv, Brice dedicates four pieces to late, lamented jazzmen, setting the bar high by the quality of the dedicatees—Andrew Hill, Eric Dolphy, Johnny Dyani and Julius Hemphill. Phew!

Although both groups play jazz, Brice's pieces for them never sound over-composed, instead allowing group members to take the initiative and improvise. While some of the compositions do have an introductory head—"Looking for the possible dance" and "Extended Breath (for Eric Dolphy)" spring to mind, as each has a short riff which is repeated several times before morphing into a solo—these never feel like straitjackets; in a nutshell, Brice trusts his chosen bandmates and they deliver the goods. While the two groups inevitably sound different, with the horns in the octet combining to good effect whereas Challenger sounds more exposed in the trio, each in its own way is commendable. Ultimately, this is one of the best albums Brice has led so far. Praise indeed.

Track Listing

Fire Hills; Looking for the possible dance; Something seen (for Andrew Hill); Extended breath (for Eric Dolphy); Blues for Johnny Dyani; Rotating mirrors (for Julius Hemphill); Tidal license; Fire Hills.

Personnel

Olie Brice: bass, acoustic.

Additional Instrumentation

Tom Challenger: tenor saxophone (1-5); Will Glaser: drums (1-5); Alex Bonney: trumpet (6-8); Kim Macari: trumpet (6-8); Jason Yarde: alto saxophone (6-8); George Crowley: tenor saxophone (6-8); Rachel Musson: tenor saxophone (6-8); Cath Roberts: baritone saxophone (6-8); Johnny Hunter: drums (6-8).

Album information

Title: Fire Hills | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: West Hill Records


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