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Michael J McEvoy: The Long Way Home

Bruce Lindsay By

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Michael J McEvoy is something of a musical chameleon—a composer, instrumentalist and producer who's played a crucial role in many musical projects without grabbing the limelight. He's composed film soundtracks (including 2008's Me And Orson Welles), and worked as musician or producer with an extensive array of artists including Ian Dury, Sting, Scritti Politti, the Bee Gees and Steve Winwood. On The Long Way Home McEvoy comes back to jazz (the "home" of the album title), with eight stylish and memorable self-penned tunes.

The Long Way Home was recorded live over two sessions in May 2013, with the exception of Jason Rebello's piano contributions which he recorded at his own studio. It's available on CD, as a download and on vinyl, all mastered by London's Gearbox Records. The vinyl album provided for this review boasts superb sound quality.

McEvoy and trumpeter Gerard Presencer are ever-present, trombonist Mark Nightingale plays on tunes from both sessions. Session one features alto saxophonist Nigel Hitchcock, bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer Dave Hamblett: for session two tenor saxophonist Ben Castle, bassist Tom Farmer and drummer James Maddren took over. That's an impressive line-up: some of the finest talents in British jazz. They don't disappoint.

"The Long Way Home" and "The Lamp On The Hill" share the warmth and immediacy of classic themes from TV shows such as "Taxi," thanks especially to the contributions of saxophonists Hitchcock and Castle. "Dreams Dispersed" features Rebello's piano: the theme has a mysterious edge, enhanced by Castle's powerful tenor solo.

McEvoy powers "Silverlink Express" along in fine style, the tune's irrepressible joy going straight to the heart and the dancing shoes. The mid-tempo "A Lighter Shade Of Blue" features brief but punchy solos from Nightingale and Hitchcock: once again, the melody's impact is immediate.

"Shadows Of The Truth" centers on McEvoy's piano. The theme is the album's darkest and most melancholy, Presencer's emotive solo is one of the album's finest—the shadows are cast onto rain-soaked midnight streets. "Stillness And Being" could be a long-lost tune from the Kind Of Blue sessions, such is the spacious, contemplative, beauty conjured up by Presencer and McEvoy—it ends far too soon.

The Long Way Home closes with the up-tempo, positive, vibes of "When I Get My Wings." Maddren's inventive, driving, drums carry the tempo, swooping around McEvoy and Farmer's rhythmic core, while Nightingale, Presencer and Castle present a formidably tight front line. Now McEvoy is back in his musical home, let's hope he stays here for a good long while.

Track Listing: The Long Way Home; Dreams Dispersed; Silverlink Express; The Lamp On The Hill; A Lighter Shade Of Blue; Shadows Of The Truth; Stillness And Being; When I Get My Wings.

Personnel: Michael J McEvoy: piano; Gerard Presencer: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jason Rebello: piano (2, 4); Nigel Hitchcock: alto saxophone (3-6); Ben Castle: tenor saxophone (1, 2, 7, 8); Mark Nightingale: trombone (3, 5, 8); Tom Farmer: bass (1, 2, 7, 8); Calum Gourlay: bass (3-6); James Maddren: drums (1, 2, 7, 8); Dave Hamblett: drums (3-6).

Title: The Long Way Home | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Rezzonator Music

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