Mind The Gap might have been named for the warning dished out thousands of times a day on the London underground, but the rather wonderful music that emanates from the Roger Beaujolais Quartet is better suited as a soundtrack to late night drives along glamorous coastal highways.
Vibraphonist Beaujolais has been an integral part of the UK jazz scene since the '80s in bands such as the Chevalier Brothers, Vibraphonic and his own quintet and quarteteven though he didn't start to play the vibes until he was 24. He's also featured strongly as a sideman with groups as varied as the Tomasso Starace Quartet and Jerry Dammers' Spacial AKA. His brightly-toned vibes playing has the knack of adding sparkle and warmth to any ensemble and that feeling shines out across the tunes on Mind The Gap. His quartet, featuring pianist Robin Aspland, bassist Simon Thorpe and drummer Winston Clifford, shares a lineup with the Modern Jazz Quartet but approaches its music from a lighter, less reverential perspective.
While the overall sensation this music generates is upbeat and life-affirming, there's plenty of variety in the sounds. Chick Corea's "Sea Journey" ebbs and flows gracefully, Beaujolais' "Mind The Gap" (on reflection, probably a reference to the spaces on his chosen instrument rather than on the Tube) has a be-bop feel and drives along at a fast but swinging pace. The sound of Beaujolais' vibes gives Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born" a relaxing, dreamlike, quality while the Wes Montgomery pairing of "Full House" and "West Coast Blues" have a cool '60s sophistication.
Three tunes, featuring Oli Savill on percussion, readily betray a Latin influence. "Joe Beam" is the most irresistible of the trio, Savil and Clifford combining to build a sultry groove that's particularly suited to those coastal highway drives.
So, top down, stars out, the gentle swoosh of the evening tide and Mind The Gap on the car stereo. Perfect.
Full House; Vera Cruz; West Coast Blues; Mind The Gap; Sea Journey; A Child Is Born; Joe Beam; Bad Connection; Estate.
Roger Beaujolais: vibraphone; Robin Aspland: piano; Simon Thorpe: double bass; Winston Clifford: drums; Oli Savill: percussion (2, 7, 8).
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