Derek Nash's role as the hardest working man in British jazz has been well documented on this site. Besides leading the band Sax Appeal and funk outfit Protect the Beat he also fronts the acoustic quartet featured on this latest recording as well as running his Clowns Pocket recording studio where he has acted as engineer and producer to many of the UK's leading jazz artists, his clientele ranging from seasoned veterans to promising newcomers. Then there is his joint proprietorsip (with singer Trudy Kerr) of the Jazzizit record label plus his busy schedule as a member of Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.
Thankfully he can still find time between all these other commitments (and of course having your own studio helps) to make records like this, a swinging unpretentious collection of originals and standards that stays close to his jazz roots. "Joyriding" represents a follow up to 2009's "Snapshot", Nash's first straight ahead jazz recording for many years, but places a greater emphasis on original compositions. It also deploys a different line-up with only bassist Geoff Gascoyne remaining from the previous recording as part of a core quartet now featuring Dave Newton at the piano and Sebastiaan de Krom at the drums. Guest appearances come from trumpeter Martin Shaw, trombonist Winston Rollins and vocalist Beverley Vaughan. Like its predecessor "Joyriding" was recorded in a single day, a conscious acknolwedgement of 50's and 60's recording methods made with the intention of keeping the music fresh.
The programme consists of four Nash originals, three pieces co-written with his father Pat Nash (for many years the chief arranger for the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra) and three standards. Things get off to a great start with the title track, Nash's homage to the seminal Blue Note record label. It's a typical Blue Note opener with strong suggestions of Lee Morgan's breakthrough hit "The Sidewinder" featuring fiery solos from Nash, Newton and guest trumpeter Martin Shaw with Gascoyne and De Krom providing the necessary rhythmic drive.
The collaborations with Pat Nash represent the long-awaited follow-up to their collaboration some ten years ago on the album "Setting New Standards". The attractive joint composition "Waltz For My Father" is more reminiscent of Bill Evans than Horace Silver and features lyrical solos from Nash, Newton and Gascoyne.
Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are" acts as a baritone feature for Nash (who actually deploys all four of the main members of the saxophone family over the course of the album) and also includes customarily excellent solos from Newton and Gascoyne, The duet between Nash on baritone and Newton at the piano is a particular delight, intended as a nod towards both Gerry Mulligan and Dave Brubeck.
Ennio Morricone's "Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso" features Nash's warm tenor sound in a gently swinging bossa version. There's a beautifully flowing piano solo from Newton and some exquisitely delicate brush work from De Krom.
The father and son composition "The Time Of Your Life" take's Pat's 1940's style melody with Derek giving it a bebop-styled twist in the manner of Charlie Parker. Derek delivers a suitable Bird-like alto solo with further features coming from Newton and de Krom.
"Be My Valentine" by British pianist Phil Phillips represents an alternatve to the more familiar "My Funny Valentine" and is slinkily seductive with more than a hint of blues. Smoky, bluesy saxophone features alongside solos from Newton and Gascoyne.
The Derek Nash original "Majolica" is a beguiling Latin-tinged tune that gives de Krom the chance to demonstrate his "hand drumming" technique. Newton throws a series of quotes into his piano solo and the mood is gently playful throughout.
Also by Nash "Love at First Sound" is a lush ballad inspired by the Great American Songbook. Beginning with a tender saxophone/piano duet with de Krom and Gascoyne later offering synpathetic support this is an impressive example of mood building with Nash supremely expressive on bartitone sax and with Newton at his most lyrical at the piano.
Another Nash original "Voodoo Rex" offers a complete change of mood and style. The piece is named after Nashs' favourite alto sax, designed for him by one Steve Goodson, a native of New Orleans. Nash brings something of the flavour of Goodson's home city to this effervescent piece which sees him trading licks with guest trombonist Winston Rollins as the rhythm section bubbles away beneath with Newton breaking cover to deliver an exuberant solo. The emphasis is very much on fun and and the tune bears a marked resemblence to the old R&B hit "Hi-Heel Sneakers".
The final Derek Nash/Pat Nash collaboration is "Hainting Me" a languid Jobim-style bossa with more of Nash's uniquely tender baritone and Newton's sublimely lyrical piano. Capable of playing in a myriad of styles, moods and tempos, the Scot is one of Britain's most tasteful and versatile jazz pianists.
The album concludes with an alternative take of the Phil Phillips tune featuring the intimate, understated vocals of Beverley Vaughan. The lyrics represent another nod to the Great American Songbook and the tune very much sounds as it it could be standard. Nash adopts an accompanying role with pianist Newton taking the instrumental honours.
There's nothing particularly original about "Joyriding" but the quality of the writing and performances ensure that it remains essential listening. Nash is totally immersed in the creative process as composer, musician, engineer and producer and the finished product exudes class and sophistication. Nash is probably best known as an alto saxophonist but he impresses on all four horms with his astonishing fluency on baritone perhaps the most distinctive element. Newton is effortlessly elegant throughout, as always, and Gascoyne and de Krom are the consummate rhythm section, swinging forcefully one minite, tenderly embellishing the next.
With ts greater conventration of riinal material "Jpyriding: just about get the nod over the earlier "Snapsot" with the colloaborations bettween aDerek and father Pat nash particularly fascninating. The album emphasises the acoustic nature of the qusrtet tyo good effect nd represents a worhty and welcome addition ot the Nash catalogue.
Review by Ian Mann - The Jazz Mann - 21st December 2011