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Alex Hitchcock - Dream Band: Live in London

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    Posted: 23 Nov 2023 at 10:40pm

recording of the week,Alex Hitchcock - Dream Band: Live in London

by Barney Whittaker

The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed many lives as it separated friends and families, caused lasting illness and exacerbated the pre-existing inequalities within our society, at times scrutinising them under a new light. Musicians were another group largely affected by the chaos, with regular gigging and tour schedules suddenly laid to rest overnight across the industry. What with jazz being perhaps the most sociable of musics (relying almost entirely on the social function of live performance), it was as if the thrill of playing had suddenly lost its sheen with the loss of these vital interactions and that crucial shared sense of space. In some cases, however, it brought people closer together not in a physical sense, of course, but in a more emotionally-resounding and psychological way. 

Now, readier than ever to get back on the saddle and strive for new creative heights is prodigious London-based talent, Alex Hitchcock, who has already been described as a "ferocious young lion of the tenor sax" by the flautist Gareth Lockrane. Walter Smith III, on the other hand, called the jazzer "an incredible saxophonist, with something very unique and original to say." No stranger to the live scene nor the studio, he has already recorded a handful of albums in quintet and quartet formations, whilst a foray into musical networking on an international level alongside guitarist Ant Law arrived in the form of Same Moon In The Same World this time last year.

It's indicative of Hitchcock's affable desire to collaborate that he was able to call on so many acclaimed musicians for the help of his latest release. Take one look at the hallowed list of artists whose names grace the cover of this live recording and you'll be hard pressed not to recognise at least one of the many indispensable performers, each continuing to cultivate the vibrancy of today's London scene in their own way. Hitchcock has already toyed with the concept of alternating lineups in the wake of the pandemic, with his freewheeling attitude having contributed to the lucidly-inspired dream band he assembled in 2021. But here, he goes one step further: a triptych of different ensembles contrastively applying themselves to their bandleader's demands, in turn excavating untapped potential and arriving at new possibilities from within his already-seasoned oeuvre. 

For this listener, the most rewarding aspect of the project is how each musician remains grounded in representing themself as a chief proponent in their own domain of contemporary jazz, while simultaneously being compelled to strive for the perfection they believe themselves to be capable of achieving together as a collective whole. In this way, soloists are given a chance to shine, which they take to with a perpetually selfless indulgence (looking at you, Rob Luft). These cats know they're great that's why they were assembled for the gig and its subsequent release. What sets them apart from, say, the Harlem Globetrotters, for instance, is that each player fulfils a specific role only they could possess. Where other ensembles seek to maintain a competent level of dazzle and flair, Dream Band consistently rises above. 


Of this near-precise two-and-a-half hour recording, I have to say that each disc (the trio of sets are helpfully arranged thus) is thoroughly absorbing and coherent. Such detailed neatness doesn't call for artistic sacrifices in the sake of stringent adherence, however it merely serves to organise the ever-flowing array of interplaying ideas into a well-proportioned sonic adventure. Take a trip with Hitchcock and you'll be surprised as to just how much visceral talent he keeps hidden away up his sleeve, both for arranging and letting rip on tenor horn. Its leaders like him, brimming with confidence, who fortunately enable mammoth procedures such as these. A testament to his amiable and hardworking personality, this album goes to show that with the right levels of warmth and gumption, we can finally hope to manifest such stuff as dreams are made on.  

Barney Whittaker

from www.prestomusic.com

Edited by snobb - 23 Nov 2023 at 10:41pm
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