"The Rise of The Lizard People," the title of the scene-setting opening track on Ivo Neame's Glimpses Of Truth, was prompted by an article Neame read which claimed that 12 million Americans believe that interstellar lizards run the United States. Only 12 million? In a country with a population approaching 332 million, around half of whose voters are idiots and conspiracy theorists, one might imagine that a far greater number would be feeling threatened by shape-shifting reptiles. To be fair, here in Britain there are people who believe our own dear Royal Family is similarly constituted.
The other tracks on Glimpses Of Truth also have titles reflecting on what the press release calls a "post-Trumpian landscape." Post-Trumpian? If only we could be sure (see "In a country with a population approaching" above).
On to happier things. To wit, the actual music on Neame's album. As a bandleader, and also as a sideman (with Phronesis and the Marius Neset Quintet among others), the keyboard player and composer has been involved in some of the most fascinating jazz to be made in Britain since the turn of the 2010s. With his own bands, Neame's work is off-beat, complex, immersive, kaleidoscopic and often bracingly polyrhythmic. It is also, without fail, fun and accessible. If you are thinking Neame must have parallels with Django Bates, another composing and keyboard playing British one-off, you are right. But Neame does not share Bates' degree of self-conscious quirkiness and this, ultimately, gives him greater weight.
On Glimpses Of Truth, Neame leads a thirteen-piece all-star band through forty minutes of multi-layered fast-moving action performed with verve and pinpoint precision. Among the soloists who shine, four names stand out: Neame, alto saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, tenor saxophonist George Crowley and vibraphonist Jim Hart. Honourable mentions go as well to baritone saxophonist Jason Yarde (more usually heard on alto) and guitarist Gilad Hekselman. The rhythm section is absolutely on song, too, comprising bassist Tom Farmer and drummers James Maddren and Jon Scott.
As ever, it is what is in the grooves that counts. But it is worth noting that the album was recorded in 2020 during the height of the pandemic and was woven together by Neame mostly from the individual contributions of musicians recording remotely in their own homes. Given the complex nature of the arrangements, this could not have been an easy process either for the musicians or for Neame as producer. Yet the result is a success on every level.
The Rise of The Lizard People; Strega; Broken Brains; Phasing Song; Persevere Part 1;
Persevere Part 2; Ghostly Figure.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz. He was previously the editor of the pioneering magazine Black Music & Jazz Review, and more recently editor of the style / culture / history magazine Jocks & Nerds.