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Jay Phelps: Jay Walkin'

Bruce Lindsay By

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Canadian-born trumpeter Jay Phelps moved to the UK at the age of 17. Since his arrival Phelps has gathered much valuable experience with acts such as Dennis Rollins (who guests on Jay Walkin''s "10 Years"), Tomorrow's Warriors and the award-winning Empirical, before embarking on this debut recording as leader at the age of 28. It's paid off, for Jay Walkin' is confident, stylish and charming.

Phelps has a great love of the jazz tradition and an enthusiasm about swing. In that respect, he has been compared to Wynton Marsalis, but Phelps has much more of a playful side to his approach and his humor comes across readily on much of this album. He has also made excellent use of his contacts on the UK jazz scene, collecting together a stellar group of musicians including experienced players such as pianist Jonathan Gee and drummer Gene Calderazzo, as well as impressive up-and-comers like bassist Karl Rasheed-Abel. Reed player Shabaka Hutchings features strongly alongside Phelps on the front line.

Phelps' compositions are strong. "Jay Walkin'" has an immediately infectious groove: a hard bop style tune that is reminiscent of the work of Sir John Dankworth's British bands of the '50s and '60s, as well as players like Clifford Brown. "Six Degrees of Separation" is less immediate, but eventually reveals itself as it interweaves multiple layers of sound. Hutchings excels on clarinet, trading licks with Phelps' muted trumpet over Gee, Rasheed-Abel and Calderazzo's sensual rhythms. "10 Years" is Phelps' most complex tune, opening and closing with a bop-flavored horn riff, but also featuring passages with a much more free-form feel and a throaty, low-down bass clarinet solo from Hutchings. Calderazzo plays some inventive drums, and guest tenor player Jean Toussaint delivers a similarly creative solo.

Phelps' delivers a gorgeous, lush, late-night arrangement of Count Basie's "Blue and Sentimental." Emma Grimes and Caroline Rankin overdub violin and cello parts into a full string section, aided by guest bassist Larry Bartley, while Phelps' trumpet playing is characterized by a rich, breathy tone.

Vocalist Michael Mwenso joins the band on a few tunes, adding to the energy and enthusiasm with an Eddie Jefferson-style approach and some skilful scatting. He's especially effective on "Out of the Blue"—based on the "Get Happy" chord changes, it's credited here to saxophonist Jackie McLean, although Miles Davis has also laid claim to it—and "I Love My Mama." The latter is a Phelps original—one of the hippest songs in praise of a mother's love that anyone has ever written.

Jay Walkin' further enhances Phelps' reputation as a player, contains some strong original compositions and establishes the trumpeter's talents as a leader. It swings, and it's fun. Terrific.

Track Listing: Jay Walkin'; Out of the Blue; Six Degrees of Separation; Blue and Sentimental; 10 Years; Semplice; I Love My Mama; A Dose of Aladine; Hola for Ola.

Personnel: Jay Phelps: trumpet; Shabaka Hutchings: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Jonathan Gee: piano; Karl Rasheed-Abel: bass; Gene Calderazzo: drums; Michael Mwenso: vocals (2, 7, 8); Oscar Martinez: percussion (3); Dennis Rollins: trombone (5); Jean Toussaint: tenor saxophone (5); Brian Edwards: tenor saxophone (7, 9); Larry Bartley: bass (4, 7, 9); Emma Grimes: violin (4); Caroline Rankin: cello (4).

Title: Jay Walkin' | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Specific Jazz


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