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Days Like These

Artist: Mark Lockheart

Date of Release: 15/02/2010

Catalogue no: fuz003

Label: fuzzymoon

Price: £10

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Track Listing

No

 

Title

Duration

1

 

Rag

7.47

2

 

Busby Berkeley Parts 1 and 2

9.41

3

 

Days Like These

5.37

4

 

Strange Remark

7.33

5

 

In Two Parts

8.23

6

 

Man With A Yellow Case

6.01

7

 

End Of A Chapter

5.35

 

 

 

 

Days Like These is Lockheart’s first big band album and is the culmination of many years of writing for large scale ensembles and is sure to further establish him as one of the UK’s most exciting and original composers. This new CD features the world class Hamburg based NDR Big Band playing 7 original compositions by Lockheart.

Mark Lockheart first emerged on the UK scene in the 1980’s as a member of seminal big band Loose Tubes. Since then, he has co-led Perfect Houseplants with pianist Huw Warren and led his own highly original 12-piece Scratch Band, as well as playing saxophone in Seb Rochford’s ground-breaking Mercury nominated Polar Bear.

Days Like These, which comes hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed In Deep (Edition Records) features seven highly original compositions ,all beautifully crafted and balanced allowing the great soloists of the NDR ample space to shine, Lockheart’s exciting sop sax contributions on most of the tracks add many memorable moments.

The command and authority of the writing and the sheer ideas make this a big band album that’s unique , and is yet another statement of Lockheart’s ‘no boundaries ‘approach to jazz composition. The inspiration comes from many quarters, Lockheart’s love of Ellington, Evans , Bates and Adams are just a few and the skill of the writing is that somehow you’re unaware of style or fashion.

The NDR Big Band is one of the most respected European big bands, collaborating with many of the top names in modern jazz including Vince Mendoza, Chet Baker, Mike Gibbs etc , spurred along on drums on this recording by another former loose Tube member Nic France .
The romping Rag is a real highlight, reminiscent of Ragtime, keystone cops and Charlie Chaplin, all somehow mixed together and grooving away in 7/8. The great Hollywood choreographer Busby Berkeley is attributed t to one track, Lockheart’s swirling ostinatos reflecting the huge surreal patterns that were such a part of Busby’s work.. And then there’s the almost Weather Report inspired ballad End Of A Chapter which is so restrained and atmospheric and a master class in dynamics.

Days Like These is big band playing and writing at its very best, its contemporary, assessable and compelling from beginning to end and will only underpin Lockheart’s reputation as one of the most exciting modern jazz composers.

 

Reviews

 

26/02/2010 The Arts Desk.Com Peter Quinn

One of the most consistently inventive musicians on the British jazz scene, sax player Mark Lockheart first came to prominence in the mid 1980s with the influential big band Loose Tubes. Currently juggling an array of projects ranging from the Mercury-nominated Polar Bear to the genre-straddling Perfect Houseplants – whose collaborations have included the Orlando Consort, baroque fiddle player Andrew Manze and recorder player Pamela Thorby - Days Like These is Lockheart's first big band recording. And what an inordinately fine album it is too. Performing on soprano sax throughout, in the company of the Hamburg-based NDR Big Band and former Loose Tubes sticksman Nic France, the myriad moods, textures and sonorities come across with thrilling immediacy. A number of the tracks have been recorded previously by Lockheart in smaller group contexts, but given the big band treatment they assume an entirely different dramatic heft. From the filmic intercutting of album opener “Rag”, inspired by silent movies and Charlie Chaplin, to the slowly rotating ostinatos of "Busby Berkeley Parts 1 and 2", Lockheart's writing crackles with life. The utterly joyous title track is particularly rich in contrapuntal detail, yet such is the precision of the writing that you're always able to parse the multitude of lines. For sheer beauty of sound alone, the Weather Report-inspired ballad “End Of A Chapter” which brings the album to a heart-melting close is one of the finest achievements of Lockheart's oeuvre. Days Like These

 

19/02/2010 The Guardian, John Fordham ***

This venture offers Polar Bear saxist Lockheart a broader canvas than last year's acclaimed quintet album In Deep – in the form of Germany's much-feted NDR Big Band, with two new NDR commissions joining some reworked originals Lockheart has written for smaller ensembles over the past decade. In Deep still gets my vote for the patient economy of its storytelling and the eloquence of its improvisations. But the arresting inflections of the Loose Tubes orchestra Lockheart played with in the 1980s has a strong presence in the divergently marching brass lines, tricky time-signatures and emphatic piano ostinatos of the opening Rag. A symphonic Busby Berkeley tribute and the somewhat melodically diffuse call-and-response Latin title track dissipate the focus a little, but it's restored by the spikiness of Strange Remark, and the spacious Wayne Shorter dedication, Man With a Yellow Case, with its open passages for bass and drums. The nuts and bolts of a big band's complex machinery are a little intrusive compared to In Deep's haunting atmospheres, but this set certainly suggests Lockheart's first big-band album won't be his last.

 

15/02/2010 The Scotsman

MARK Lockheart continues to assert his claim as a major voice in contemporary jazz, and this excellent outing with the splendid Hamburg-based NDR Band adds further weight to that claim. The title track and Man With A Yellow Case (inspired by a Wayne Shorter anecdote) were written for the project. The other five are new arrangements of tunes familiar from earlier recordings, including two originally for his 12-piece Scratch Band, Busby Berkeley Parts 1&2 and In Two Parts. The three imaginative expansions of small group material are equally fine, and Lockheart is in superb form on soprano saxophone (he sets the tenor aside on this occasion). Guest drummer Nic France and the various band soloists make their own telling contributions to a compelling set.

 

14/02/2010 The Observer , Dave Gelly

Mark Lockheart's standing as a composer has been growing to match his reputation as a saxophonist for some time, but this is his first album for a full jazz orchestra. And what an orchestra! Germany's NDR Big Band is one of the finest in the world. These seven numbers are full of great ideas, especially "Rag", which is like music for a space-age silent movie, and "Busby Berkeley", where intricate repetitions echo the vast, moving patterns of dancers in Berkeley's films. Lockheart's own soprano saxophone playing is a joy throughout.

 

02/02/2010 Chris Parker, Vortex Jazz

Saxophonist/composer Mark Lockheart has been making superb albums under his own name for over a decade now (Through Rose-Coloured Glasses, Subtone, 1998, contained nine pieces played by the mid-size Scratch Band, augmented by eleven more by a similar band on 2002's Imaginary Dances; his subsequent couple of CDs have been small-group recordings), and has also made a number of acclaimed albums with Perfect Houseplants from 1993 onwards, so this collection of pieces arranged for the NDR Big Band, drawing as it (largely) does on this body of work, has a justifiably retrospectively celebratory feel to it, emphasised by a collage, on its sleeve, of pictures of Lockheart at various stages of his development.

Lockheart's work has always been characterised by stylistic adventurousness, its hospitality to both 'classic' jazz influences and more contemporary sounds, so from its infectiously exuberant ragtime-tinged 7/8 opener, 'Rags', through its two-part homage to Busby Berkeley to its Weather Report-inspired closing ballad 'End of a Chapter' Days Like These presents a fully rounded portrait of one of the most versatile and skilful jazz composers currently working in the UK.

The NDR Big Band address the material with their customary mix of verve and precision, and with Nic France on drums and the composer himself on characterful, multi-textured soprano, they bring out all the energy, inventiveness – and considerable subtlety – of Lockheart's music; Days Like These is consequently not only immediately enjoyable courtesy of the punchy accessibility of its tunes, but also richly rewarding, revealing fresh felicities with each subsequent exposure. Recommended.

 

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