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Henry Spencer Henry Spencer
Album: The Reasons Don't Change (+ Live Review)
Label: Whirlwind
Tracks: 11

The Reasons Don't Change is the debut album from young British trumpeter Henry Spencer, with his band Juncture. Henry was awarded the Best Newcomer Award when the band debuted at the Marlborough Jazz Festival 2011. He has also won the Emerging Excellence Award 2014 (Help Musicians UK) - indeed all the band are award winners *, so this is an eagerly anticipated release. I had the good fortune to see the band during their recent UK Tour at Poole's Soundcellar Club, and can confirm that they are just as impressive live.

Henry Spencer plays with a clear brassy tone, which reminds me of Guy Barker - though it may also have been partly influenced by his college tutors such as Nick Smart and Gerard Presencer. Whatever the influences, Henry writes and plays with subtlety, emotional sensitivity and a great ear for dynamics. Songs such as On The Bridge and Joanne's Diary have a strong narrative quality, with themes developing through widespread use of crescendo. There is a cinematic quality in the writing (again I am reminded of Guy Barker); these are tunes which radiate emotional intensity and reflection, rather than swing.

Henry uses these elements to good effect on his eulogy to his grandfather - Eulogy: Goodbye Old Chap. Instead of using the trumpet to lay down the theme, he uses Nick Costley-White to introduce the theme, before building the emotion with the horn and drums, creating a juxtaposition between the gentle guitar and the raw trumpet, leaving space for some exquisite, flowing soloing from Nick.

Indeed, Henry leans quite heavily on Nick's guitar on several tracks to provide relief from the intensity of his own playing, which would otherwise totally dominate this album. Apart from guitar (check out the solo on The Survivor and the Descendant), there are some short, but deftly economical solos from pianist Matt Robinson, and light-touch use of strings. Beyond that, this is really Henry's album - both compositionally and in terms of the central role of the trumpet. The result is a strong stylistic unity - but not much variety in the sequence of tracks. While Henry Spencer admits that he writes with "the same emotionally evocative intent" as the singer-songwriters he admires, I find that this intensity can be difficult to take over a whole album.

Live, Henry is able to give more space to the soloists. Matt Robinson particularly impresses with his melodic improvisions and unflashy craftsmanship. Tom Ollendorff (winner of a 2015 Yamaha scholarship) stood in for Costley-White on guitar, and played some hugely enjoyable solos. Live, there is also greater opportunity for Dave Ingamells to shine than on record - I find digital recording often pushes back the rhythm section, unless you play at high volume, but live his deft fills and occasional solos throw more spotlight on his contribution. Andy Robb provides solid underpinning rhythm, but rarely solos - a shame!

To conclude then, this is a band with a great future, and Henry's writing and solo work provide a very solid foundation for future work. I hope he can develop a more varied style, however - and, dare I say it, be prepared to swing a little more!

Martin Price