More than ten years ago a friend of mine said "Best English jazz comes from what is known as Canterbury scene". At that time we got stuck already for two or three days in foggy Gt.Yarmouth waiting for gleams of brighter sky letting chopper pilots to take the plunge of making the flight over grey fall's North Sea. All hopeless. Empty pebbled streets and ancient fame inheriting buildings in combination with quay's countless glass halls overfilled with neon-glossy plastic of game machines,all washed by English endless petite rain looked as excellent scenery for hours of meaningless conversations. So I didn't pay much attention to his phrase, but much later I remembered it again and again.
For fans of Japanese jazz it is a well known subject how many hot discussions was held around authenticity of that music. Because of historical/political reasons it started forming very late, in fact in early 70s only, and even having some successful examples still remains half-opened question. English jazz has much longer and much more successful history, but still speaking about its originality there are three main streams in modern jazz and fusion that could be counted as uniquely English (at least for us, non-British jazz fans): firstly, quirky (often close to self-parody) free-form improvisational music,led by Derek Bailey, second, tuneful and often just beautiful rock-jazz from late 60s-early 70s known as Canterbury scene, and finally, the recent London acid jazz. Of all three, it's the Canterbury scene which really deeply rooted in English tradition (even if since as rule this music was played by rock musicians,using some jazz techniques and arrangements, for some listeners it probably couldn't be classified as jazz at all).
Pianist Alex Hutton,leading the trio with Russian born bassist Yuri Golubev and the Israeli born drummer Asaf Sirkis,is one among most interesting English jazz musicians playing what could be tagged as nu jazz - organic mix of rock songs structures and simplicity, jazz techniques and improvisation plus touch of European chamber tradition.His previous album “Legentis” was good example of music that fits perfect to hipster bars. When three years after he returned with “Magna Carta Suite”, an album tagged as and looking like one of these neo-progressive rock releases,I was surprised a lot. Press release contains an informative and quite detailed information about inspirations,coming from past,history and time.
Still after first minutes of listening my concerns about possible music changes have gone. Despite the fact that Alex trio is improved with Liz Palmer(Baroque flute)and Liesbeth Allart(Cor anglias) on some songs, it is still very same his tasteful and stylish nu jazz, with some baroque taste this time. Excellent rhythm section supply lot of groove and as a result the listener has no doubt if the music he listens is jazz. Alex compositions are well packed,mostly English folk rooted and from outside they often sound as you're listening to saloon jazz band, trying to play their own rock songs. Combination of jazzy techniques,rockish rhythms and structures and English folk melodies (with some baroque elements constantly presented) makes this music something that could be without big risk called "true English jazz", or modern days Canterbury scene(even if it is actually the opposite formula to genuine Canterbury progressive rock).
Two last album's (who lasts only 39 minutes,the length more usual for vinyl age) compositions are obviously most controversial ones - added Neil Sparks mostly recitative voice,reading his own "Magna Carta Suite - Xerox Sonnets & X-Ray Blues" sounds as two real progressive rock pieces, having nothing to do with jazz. It looks such ending disturbed many reviewers coming from a jazz point of view, for me it sounds as very natural part of cross-genre musical work.
Stylish, accessible and original album, one you will listen more than once for sure.