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Album Review

Better than TV: Late

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Better than TV: Late
Better than TV, huh? A few years ago that assertion—from a young quintet based in Cambridge, UK—would have been quite a boast. Today, not so much. Still, congrats to the band for coming up with the name. It's memorable and a tad quirky, which is good, because on this evidence the band, with a strong bop sensibility and a way with a memorable melody line, could well be around for some time.

Late is the band's debut: eight tunes composed by bassist Sergio Contrino, recorded in mid and late-2013 at Churchill College Music Centre in Cambridge. As with any young band, a recording made two years before the album's release date is unlikely to represent their current sound, but Late showcases a band that's learnt from the bop masters. "Elliulogy" reaches (very successfully) back to the blues, "FEAB" is the album's one downbeat number, more typical are the faster tunes such as "Samba Per Mi" and "1000 And One" which share similar repetitive, driving bass patterns.

Contrino and drummer Ed Blake form a confident rhythm section, pianist David Burgoyne moves smoothly between this section and a lead role—his solos on "Se Volete" and "Standing With Sally" are stylish and immediately engaging. Up front the twin horns of trumpeter Gavin Spence and trombonist Tom Green have a full, rich, sound when playing together that gives the feel of a larger section—as soloists they both have the ability to range from fluid, lyrical, lines to punchier, more assertive, sequences.

There are sonic quirks to Late that do, sadly, impact on the music. The horns in particular often sound muffled or sit too low in the mix, —the issue is especially noticeable on the tracks recorded at the second of the two sessions. Better Than TV's talents would be better served by a more sympathetic setting—it's the least that Contrino's compositions and the band members' talent as musicians deserve and in such a setting Better Than TV could produce some killer recordings.

Track Listing

1000 And One; Standing With Sally; Elliulogy; Morse; pm; FEAB; Samba Per Mi; Se Volete; Late (plus alternate take of Standing With Sally)

Personnel

David Burgoyne: piano; Ed Blake: drums; Gavin Spence: trumpet/flugelhorn; Sergio Contrino: bass guitar; Tom Green: trombone

Album information

Title: Late | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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