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Mike Fletcher Trio: Vuelta

Bruce Lindsay By

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Vuelta is the debut release from the Mike Fletcher Trio, a band with a strong emphasis on improvisations based on Fletcher's melodies. The result is an accessible collection of tunes that draw on the creativity and technical skills of all three players.

The trio is based in Birmingham, the major city of the English midlands. Fletcher, a 2014 ECHO Rising Star, plays the rather rare combination of flute and C-melody saxophone. Olie Brice and Jeff Williams stick with the tried and trusted rhythm section combination of bass and drums. Both rhythm section players have an extensive jazz pedigree—Brice has played with Ken Vandermark and Paul Dunmall, American expat Williams has joined Lee Konitz and Stan Getz among others. This experience shows in the trio's unshowy, integrated approach to the music.

Stylistically the trio takes in a broad spectrum of influences—including mainstream jazz, classical, swing and improvisation—and produces eight tunes that are characterised by Fletcher's sinuous lead lines underpinned by Williams and Brice's bouncy, percussive rhythms. Composer credit goes to the leader, but the development of each number sounds very clearly like a whole-band responsibility.

The tunes are varied. The laid-back and slinky midsection of "Her Grace" is bookended by slower opening and closing sections given a mysterious feel by Brice's arco bass. "Fletcher's Walk" is a bop-flavored tune: Williams and Brice are at their bounciest, giving the number an upbeat and positive mood. "A Dino," with Fletcher on flute, has a melody that mixes hints of Bach's "Bourrée in E Minor" with subtler hints of "Round Midnight" and a relaxed, freeform feel. "Perhaps Sing A Song" is resolutely cheery, thanks especially to Brice's infectious bass line.

It's worth mentioning that Vuelta's quality extends beyond the music—the sound is excellent (Benedic Lamdin recorded the album at London's Fish Factory Studio) and the album packaging is also well-produced. The release comes from the young independent label Stoney Lane Records, also based in Birmingham. It's clearly a label with a keen eye and ear for quality—let's hope that Vuelta is a sign of things to come from the label and from the Mike Fletcher Trio.

Track Listing: Aire; Her Grace; Fletcher's Walk; A Dino; Perhaps Sing A Song; Home; In Memoriam; Savour.

Personnel: Mike Fletcher: C-melody saxophone, flute; Olie Brice: bass; Jeff Williams: drums.

Title: Vuelta | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Stoney Lane Records

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