I went an excellent show at my local community arts centre, EDDA, in Ainsdale, by the Ginger Tunes Quartet [GTQ].
Ginger Tunes is a collective of jazz musicians from the Liverpool area and is led by saxophonist Mike Smith from Southport.As well as being a superb sax [and Hammond organ] player, Mike is also a composer of fine melodies.
I was very impressed by GTQ's live performance, so decided to seek out their recorded work. I first obtained their album of jazz standards "Flaccid Jazz" from 2015 and, subsequently, their latest album "Mersey, Mersey, Mersey", which is the subject of this review.
Clearly, Mike enjoys a good pun.Apart from the album's title [with, no doubt, apologies to Joe Zawinul who wrote the 1966 soul-jazz classic "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy"], the titles of the tunes on the album all [bar one] contain Merseyside references - for example, "Tox Town", "Bossa Scouser", "Speke Easy" and so on.
The reason for this becomes clear when Mike describes the album as a celebration of the City of Liverpool, its people and places, and a reflection of Merseyside. Indeed, the recording of the album was made possible thanks to the support of Liverpool Jazz, an organisation which supports Merseyside's jazz musicians of all ages.
The album was recorded at Liverpool's famous Parr Street Studios in a mere two days and was mixed on the third day.
Although credited to the Ginger Tunes Quartet, the album actually features a seven-piece band, made up of the cream of Liverpool's young jazz musicians.
Apart from Mike Smith on saxes and Hammond, there's Richard Chance [piano], Jamie Brownfield [trumpet], JJ Rio [bass], Jake Woodward [drums], Andy Hulme [guitar] and Craig Smith [percussion]. Together they make a cracking ensemble.
From the funky opening tune [ Doris From Norris] to the closing "Speke Easy", the album is an aural delight, with an incredibly high standard of playing from this talented group of musicians.
Mike Smith achieves a perfect balance between melody and rhythm throughout and I enjoyed every single one of the nine tunes. If I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be "Bootlejuice", a quirky/funky number which reminds me of Weather Report, one of my favourite bands. It also features a series of great solos on electric piano, Hammond, guitar and sax. Great stuff!
This is followed, contrastingly, by the mellow "Just To Know You", which, with its gently seductive melody, has all the makings of a "late night jazz" classic. Jamie Brownfield's trumpet and Mike's sax complement each other perfectly.
Again, the mood changes considerably with the joyful funky strut of "Hitchhiker's Guide to Fazakerley", which sounds as if it came straight out of New Orleans, rather than New Strand!
Mike also takes us to Brazil with the percussion-driven samba of "Bossa Scouser", a lovely piece of Jobim-infused Braziliana.
The band really take off on the funky closing number "Speke Easy" and it sounds like they were having a real party whilst recording this!
All in all, this is a superb album from Mike and his band and one which I highly recommend.
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