The Dinner Sessions

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Artist/s: Compilation with large number of musicians, band leaders and singers including Phil Slater (trumpet), Don Burrows, (clarinet), Kristin Berardi (vocalist), Julian Wilson (tenor saxophone), Paul Grabowsky (piano), Barnaby McCall (piano), Stephen Magnussen (guitar), James Morrison (trumpet), Phil Slater (trumpet), Judy Bailey, (piano), Craig Scott (double bass), Jonathan Zwartz (double bass), Tom Baker (tenor saxophone)...
Category: Jazz
Label: ABC Jazz 570 8195
Reviewed by

The title may inspire mixed feelings for some, including me somewhat.

Some music of long long ago – Bach, Mozart, folk music so old it is automatically designated primitive and, in short, music from beyond even our parents’ field of interest – is generally heard with interest and enjoyment or simply neutral disinterest. The music that was still hanging around while our parents grew up is the music of  the enemy (oldies in short) and is therefore laughable, boring, loathsome in every way.

Now here is a collection of, predominantly, a kind of jazz that has been called Easy Listening, Middle of the Road, Lounge Jazz and so on. It will be greeted with fond pleasure by some. Radio’s Arch McCurdy (I know you’ve never heard of him) played quite a lot of jazz that sort of fits these descriptions.

Let’s have another listen with clear minds. Everything is beautifully bevelled and turned, smoothly sanded to within a thousandth of an inch. Yet it is relaxed, quite freely executed really, even floating and gliding. It is physically beautiful. Many have even found it seductive and it is not out of the question that you could have been conceived in its vicinity. Some is corny – the words where they occur – but the music is almost always technically sophisticated, and so, surprisingly often, are the words.

Don Burrows the younger

Those who are playing or singing it here are not exclusively associated with this music. It has been, certainly, one of Don Burrows’s specialties. His lyrical passages are brilliant and the swelling voluptuous notes are so full and glorious in tone that for a moment I thought he was playing his alto saxophone, whereas (as I quickly realised of course – I mean natch) it was his clarinet). The Gershwin melody I Can’t Get Started is a great one which suits him well. James Morrison sounds good too, but for me spoils the mood at the end with a familiar trumpet display. The crowd love it, however, which is their democratic right. Incidentally most of these tracks were recorded live at different venues.

James Morrison

Some of the musicians here are much better known for their not infrequent experimentation in a contemporary idiom, yet they often play the old standards just as well as the more traditionally oriented. The playing of trumpeter Phil Slater, bassist Jonathan Zwartz, guitarist Doug de Vries, drummer Hamish Stewart and percussionist Fabian Hevia on Zwartz’s tune Travelling Song is a good example. All the vocalists sing deftly and persuasively.

Jonathon Zwartz

Talking of old standards, Paul Grabowsky gives us a haunting piano rendition of The Fool on the Hill by you know who. And we should not close without mentioning the perfect swing time and jazz tone and phrasing of the late Tom Baker’s tenor saxophone on Benny Carter’s When Lights Are Low (played in the 1950s with slightly different harmonies by Miles Davis).

Paul Grabowsky

If you are due to relax and eat and drink with good friends I suggest you take this disc along. If you are young, however, you may find yourself standing perfectly still.

Tom Baker

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