Tony Andrews, our contributing editor (jazz) writes:
I firmly believe that UK jazz fans are getting more and more paranoid about musicians from anywhere other than the UK; that in some way, they are better musically or more inventive. This is especially so with musicians from The US where Jazz is thought to have been invented. I love the music of many US musicians and singers but - equally - talent from both genres are to be found much closer to home, right here in the UK.
To prove this emphatically I attend to many Jazz venues mainly in the London area but I do venture into the depths of beautiful and underrated Essex. During one of these adventures I saw The Jonathan Gee Trio. He proves that my theory is founded on fact and not fiction. The CD Chez Auguste is a good place to start if you want to check out Jonathan Gee and his superb trio featuring Steve Rose on Double Bass and Winston Clifford on Drums.
The CD is well recorded at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Frith Street, Soho, London by Miles Ashton who obviously knows his way around a mixing desk too. He also mixed & mastered this delightful CD. All the tracks, except Track 4 When I fall in love” are written by Jonathan or by the trio and it’s so refreshing not to have to be burdened by hearing the same old hackneyed tunes that so many Jazz musicians feel they have to play to prove that they really are truly Jazz musicians. I am not saying these tunes are not musically great pieces but hearing Love For Sale played by every pianist and sung by every singer can get very tiresome.
It is difficult to pick a favourite track but, if I must, then track 1 Rathbone Place and Track 6 which is the title track of the album stand out for me. In many ways Jonathan Gee reminds me of a truly British version of Keith Jarrett who, as we all know, is probably the finest pianist from the US by a mile. If you read my ramblings then you will know of my many visits to The Foyles Bookshop in Charing Cross Road (London)to search their Jazz record department Bargain Bin.
I popped in last week and in The Bin was a CD by another great British Jazz Musician, Trumpeter Jay Phelps. The CD Jay Walkin was such good value I had to buy it and Frank (the Jazz Department manager) confirmed it was a fabulous CD; so I bought it. When I got it home I discovered that Jonathan Gee was the featured pianist on this great CD. This CD contains material from many composers including Jay Phelps. The Sextet/Septet includes some exceptionally talented musicians including Gene Calderazzo on Drums.
The CD has a similar feel to an updated version of 60s Blue Note which – in this context - is not to be read as critical please. The concept is very fresh and not attempting to copy The Blue Note Style. The CD also features a singer Michael Mwenso who I have not come across before but he has talent in abundance and reminds me of a mix of John Hendricks and Mark Murphy which, in my opinion, can't be a bad thing.
Returning to Jonathan Gee, he really pulls the whole thing together, thereby proving he is not just a Trio Leader but a Band Musician.
This has to be one of the best CD's I have found at Foyles and I can thoroughly recommend searching for it in your favourite record store or Amazon. As you may have worked out by now, I’m a bit uncomfortable picking favourite tracks but ….. I love track 3 Six Degrees of Separation and Track 7 I Love My Mama - written by Jay Phelps and features Michael Mwenso on vocals.
As a total package this is a truly exceptional CD and, purchased for just £3.25, is a real find. God Bless Foyles Bargain Bin.