95. The Jazz Five featuring Vic Ash and Harry Klein / The Five of Us (1960)
Vic Ash played a sweet clarinet but also came to double on tenor sax, and the latter is what he mostly does here. Harry Klein, the great British barisax, is the other reed, along with a rock solid Malcolm Cecil on bass and the piano of Brian Dee. Their set is slick and refreshing jazz in the deep rhythm and blues vein that should immediately resonate with Blue Note listeners. The twin-sax front line is similar to that of another great, and perhaps more well known, British hard bop super group: The Jazz Couriers featuring Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott. Such a comparison is easy to make, but the texture and dynamics of the Jazz Five are quite different than that of the Couriers, without mentioning stylistic differences between the members of the two groups. On "The Five of Us," the group works with an uptempo tune of its own composition, the latter section demonstrating its willingness to exploit the baritone in the arrangement, likewise with "'Pon My Soul." The group swings in a tight arrangement but maintains a freewheeling, loose and savvy spirit that I associate with Charles Mingus. Four of the five members were noted composers, and this EP features mostly their music instead of American-penned standards. That wins points in my book, and I think the quality of the compositions alone should warrant more serious interest from the American jazz community. Certainly someone took note: Riverside renamed the record The Hooter and released in stateside. There is one American tune, the ubiquitous "Autumn Leaves." It's a rather charming arrangement done in sections like vignettes, featuring a contribution from each member. I especially like Malcolm Cecil's pensive and melancholic chorus on the bass, right before it wraps up, and the opposition of the saxes is fantastic. If you're going to listen, and I recommend that you do, then stop! Don't read too much about it beforehand. It's better to just listen cold and let it take you where it will. You can swing by the BritJazz blog for a free download of the EP. If you do, be sure to leave a comment and say hey to the managers.