Vertigo 1970 / Esoteric 2013
An impressive rejuvenation of British jazz with contemporary state of mind.
When this youngster arrived in London, the capital’s swinging days were over, yet it was only a matter of time before Keith Tippett shook the scene with his sensitive piano. But while his contemporaries such as Dick Heckstall-Smith were weaving rock idiom into their jive, Tippett ploughed a highly individual, although inspired by classical music and free jazz, furrow. Having shaped a blistering front from Elton Dean on sax, Nick Evans on trombone and Marc Charig on cornet, Keith bends his band here around a set of originals that, Janus-like, look back to his Bristol days and into the future, as the plaintive, low-tone intro to “This Evening Was Like Last Year”, both opener and closer, gives way to sparse, crepuscular chords remindful of Satie and Varese, before the bluesy brass kicks in in short strokes to change the mood from elegiac to elegantly jovial. And that’s how it is with the tight, energetic “Violence”, shot with Alan Jackson’s drums, and the “Hey Jude”-quoting “Thank Your For The Smile”.
A different kind of dynamics is employed in “I Wish There Was A Nowhere”, where Jeff Clyne’s bass accentuates the perky swing in the Mingus-Dolphy way, ivories passing their passion to embouchures and supporting the soloists’ roundabout. Meanwhile, “View From Battery Point” sparkles with a delicate, nostalgic vibe contrasting a four-string patina of its middle section, and “Stately Dance For Miss Primm” shifts impressively from baroque solemnity to a pre-war dancehall, as the sextet try on various time-warping guises without ever losing a stylistic integrity. As far as debut albums go, this one, sealed with a tasty, powerful coda – a clear sign of the Albion jazz’s vitality – is fantastic.