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Roger Beaujolais Quartet: Mind The Gap

Dan Bilawsky By

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The quintet has usually been the format of choice for British vibraphone ace Roger Beaujolais, but he changes it up on Mind The Gap; this is the eighteenth album from the veteran mallet man, but the first to really focus on a foursome.

Beaujolais, a self taught vibraphonist who started a bit late—in his mid-twenties—has more than made up for lost time over the years. In the '80s he made a splash with The Chevalier Brothers, an outfit which brought its brand of retro jump jive music to stages throughout the world, and he found some success in the realm of acid jazz with Vibraphonic in the '90s. Studio work with a diverse list of artists, like dissimilar vocalists Robert Plant, Morrissey, and Omara Portuondo, a string of quintet dates under his own name, and teaching work at London's Trinity College of Music round out his résumé thus far, but he's not done adding to it.

Mind The Gap finds Beaujolais in fine form, doling out jazz classics ("A Child Is Born"), pleasing originals ("Joe Beam") and Brazilian tunes. Beaujolais doesn't technically share the front line with anybody since he removed saxophone from the equation, but the vibraphonist isn't really alone out front; pianist Robin Michael Aspland does his share of the heavy lifting, working in tandem with Beaujolais, taking plenty of solos, and providing solid support when the vibraphonist steps forward.

All of the music here is fairly straight ahead, yet its virtues are many and varied. Beaujolais manages to conjure different moods with each and every one of these finely crafted performances. Wes Montgomery's "Full House" is jaunty as can be, Milton Nascimento's "Vera Cruz," which opens with rubato ruminations and eventually settles into a solid groove, is upbeat and sunny, and the title track is a driving romp worth savoring. Beauty becomes Beaujolais, as demonstrated on his tender-and-loyal take on Thad Jones oft-performed "A Child Is Born," and elegance underscores a reading of "Estate." Beaujolais, Aspland, solid-as-a-rock bassist Simon Thorpe, and light-touch drummer Winston Clifford demonstrate class, skill and a strong sense of style through it all.

Beaujolais couldn't completely avoid the pull of the quintet, so percussionist Oli Savill makes a few appearances as the fifth man, but the majority of the tracks stick to the well-suited four man-plan. Perhaps this will be the first of many quartet dates for Roger Beaujolais, but even if it's not, it still serves as a fine addition to his discography.

Track Listing: Full House; Vera Cruz; West Coast Blues; Mind The Gap; Sea Journey; A Child Is Born; Joe Beam; Bad Connection; Estate.

Personnel: Roger Beaujolais: vibraphone; Robin Aspland: piano; Simon Thorpe: double bass; Winston Clifford: drums; Oli Savill: percussion (2, 7, 8).

Title: Mind The Gap | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Stay Tuned Records

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