Tenor and soprano saxophonist Andy Middleton’s third disc as a leader is a mixed bag of middle-eastern melodies, jazz-rock fusion (played with acoustic instruments), and pieces that fit comfortably in the modern mainstream of jazz. The unifying element in all of this music is the exemplary musicianship of Middleton and his core band of guitarist and pianist Ralph Towner, bassist Dave Holland, the drums of Alan Jones, with percussion and trombone added on some tracks. They find creative ways of playing the wide variety of material, thereby giving the disc a feeling of wholeness.
Middleton’s moody composition, “Loyalsock,” begins with an ethereal guitar introduction by Towner, leaving room for Holland’s comments and Jones’ shifting accents, which imply rather than explicitly state a pulse. Middleton’s ripe tone on tenor becomes somewhat raspy as his solo progresses, and on this and his other turns, he favors a deliberate development of ideas and interaction with the others. “Lothlorien,” named for a mountain in the Canadian Rockies, is a reflective ballad that becomes more insistent without shattering the mood. Middleton’s tenor mixes strength and sensitivity, and Jones offers a thrashing, polyrhythmic solo over a vamp and continues in this vein during the restatement of the theme.
Towner’s “Raffish,” one of three of his compositions on the recording, starts with sinister-sounding insistent guitar chords, which evolve into two bright, funky themes. The band improvises collectively and then Middleton unleashes his most impassioned playing on the disc, racing through the changes without dominating, and leaving space for the commentary of Towner, Holland, and Jones.
Track List:Loyalsock; Kasbah Tadla; Mount Rundle; Raffish; Lothlorien; I’ll Remember August; Lizbet; Songs Of Struggle And Songs Of Love; Simone.