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Anyone wishing to explore the wealth of talent to be found among the UK jazz scene's up-and-coming musicians can cheerfully begin here. Light At Night, the debut from drummer Dave Hamblett, features six of the finest of these young players. The album is impressively consistent, with Hamblett's thoughtful compositions drawing some fine performances from the drummer and his band mates.
Hamblett graduated from the Royal Academy Of Music in 2010 and formed this group the same year. He has also developed a strong résumé as a sideman, playing with the late trumpeter Abram Wilson, the F-IRE Collective Large Ensemble, and in various incarnations of pianist Ivo Neame's bands. His playing shows a maturity and sensitivity that belies his youth; he's always conscious of the needs of the music, eschewing solos in favor of creating a strong rhythmic foundation for each tune in partnership with bassist Calum Gourlay.
Hamblett's compositions reflect a range of possible influences. The opening section of "Dark Sky" has a spiritual, free-flowing atmosphere suggestive of saxophonists John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders; Alex Munk's lines go even further back to classic bebop, while the guitarist and keyboardist Neame draw inspiration from '70s fusion on "Zoom Out." The album's most distinctive sound comes from the twin saxophones of Josh Arcoleo and Joe Wright. When the pair combines on tenor saxophones, the resulting sound is rich and full, with "Lighthouse" featuring this sound at its most romantic. When Wright switches to soprano he extends both the band's tonal and emotional ranges.
The soft, subtle "Guard Down" highlights many of the strengths of Hamblett's writing and the sextet's musical ability. While Hamblett and Gourlay lay down a restrained rhythm, Wright and Arcoleo (on soprano and tenor) harmonize beautifully, Munk's chordal washes add atmosphere and Neame contributes sparing yet effective notes on piano. In six-and-a-half minutes, it neatly summarizes the joys of Light At Night.
Track Listing: Dark Sky; Zoom Out: Part 1; Zoom Out: Part 2; Lighthouse; The Park; Hero's Theme; Guard Down; Light At Night.
Personnel: Dave Hamblett: drums; Josh Arcoleo: tenor saxophone; Joe Wright: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Ivo Neame: piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboards; Alex Munk: guitar; Calum Gourlay: double bass.