This album features six tracks inspired by A. A. Milne's poems in When We Were Very Young. The book has been a favourite for generations of Patrick's family, so he was delighted to gain a Chamber Music America grant in 2012 which enabled him to write this suite of tunes for his New York-based octet.
The album features several top-rated East Coast jazz stars: Boston-based trumpeter Jason Palmer, Michael Buble's trombonist Nick Vayenas, prolific N.Y. sidemen John Ellis (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Kendrick Scott (Drums) and Miles Okazaki (guitar), Peter Slavov (bass) and rising piano star Gerald Clayton. This enables the octet to achieve a range of styles to suit Patrick's varied writing, as well as guaranteeing great solos and impeccable ensemble work.
The writing on this album is superb, with Patrick exploring a wide range of jazz styles and tonal colours. Opening track Sand Between the Toes illustrates this point well with the intro using only the four horns in a slow, brass band-like section, leading into an up-tempo theme on saxophone and then ensemble, before giving solo space to piano, alto sax (Patrick), trombone and guitar, then returning to the theme. Water Lilies is taken slightly slower than the live version, with the guitar/piano intro leading into a gentle theme on trumpet, then bass clarinet, then ensemble, to create a beautifully evocative impression of the delicate flowers on rippling water. Jason's warm-toned trumpet solo flows effortlessly into Patrick's on soprano sax, before the ensemble comes in to resolve the piece into a piano, then guitar diminuendo with more than a hint of Satie in the writing.
Jonathan Jo is taken very similarly as it is live, but provides scope for a muscular, soul-jazz sax solo, some tightly intricate ensemble playing on the boogaloo section, followed by lively, piano and trombone solos, before returning to the theme. The Invaders starts with a slow, gentle theme on bass clarinet and bass, leading into a warm syrup of a theme. Solo honours go to John Ellis - his lilting bass clarinet hinting at New Orleans dirges, gentle swing and even the mellow side of Eric Dolphy.
The angular, hard-bop Lines and Squares provides only a brief taste of what is possible live - at less than 3 minutes, I am not sure why it could not have been developed further in solos (the whole album clocks in at under 60 minutes). Having said that, it allows for a brief guitar/drums piece followed by some rapid-fire solos which almost merge into a New Orleans type polyphony. Closing the album is Vespers. Starting as a slow ballad, it features lyrical interplay between guitar and piano which creates a peaceful, drifting feel, before the tempo mounts to bring in the group. This gives space for solos by Jason (trumpet) and Patrick (alto), before returning to the placid, gentle guitar.
If you are looking for cutting edge beats or avant guard jazz, this is not the album for you. However, for highly listenable jazz with a strong 1960's feel, with accessible yet intricate themes, lyrically flowing music, great solos and gorgeous ensemble playing, this is an album you will want to play again and again! Highly recommended.
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