One of the strengths of the current British jazz scene comes from its core of mainstream, straight-ahead musicians, who focus their creative abilities on drawing fresh nuances from established musical styles; saxophonist Derek Nash is one of them. Joyriding features what he refers to as his "regular quartet," although that phrase does scant justice to the quality of the musicianship.
Nash is a member of Jools Holland's Rhythm And Blues Orchestra, a regular presence on BBC TV where Holland has his own music show, Later. Pianist Dave Newton is a winner of nine British Jazz Awards, while bassist Geoff Gascoyne and drummer Sebastiaan de Krom are long-term members of Jamie Cullum's band.
Nash displays engagingly eclectic taste. He co-wrote three tunes with his father, Pat, a respected arranger. "Waltz For My Father" is a particular standout, for its lilting, optimistic melody and for Nash's lyrical playing. The other compositions encompass the hard-bop-meets-blues of "Joyriding"—a tune that conjures images of groovy '60s TV shows like Rowan And Martin's Laugh-In—and the cool swing of Phil Phillips' "Be My Valentine," later reprised in a vocal version featuring singer Beverly Vaughan. "Love At First Sound" is a gentle, slightly melancholy, ballad, with Nash's rich, warm, saxophone lent understated support by Newton, Gascoyne and de Krom. "Voodoo Rex," which Nash dedicates to his alto saxophone, is a terrific ensemble number. The core quartet is joined by Winston Rollins' funky trombone, creating a really full-blooded sound.
Nash's take on songbook standards is similarly fresh. Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are" has the feel of a Dave Brubeck arrangement, Nash taking the lead as the rhythm section drives him on, before Newton and Gascoyne deliver strong, emphatic solos of their own. Ennio Morricone's "Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme)," with its slinky Latin sensuality, is gorgeously romantic; bass and drums are, once again, central to the creation its mood, and there's some lovely interplay between Nash and Newton.
Joyriding is an album full of good vibes and upbeat grooves, tempered by the occasional reflective and romantic interlude. The playing is superb, the sound quality is exceptional (thanks to Nash's production at Clowns Pocket Studio) and the tunes are very definitely a joy.
Review by Bruce Lindsay - All About Jazz