A crisp, swinging, well-executed programme of mainstream/modern, ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’ is a splendid advertisement for British jazz. Ronnie Ross plays some of the most inventive baritone sax I have heard from him in quite some time and displays considerably more imagination than Gerry Mulligan does on the new Brubeck quartet set.
Another good thing about the record is the tenor work of Art Elefsen whose Zoot Sims-Brew Moore influenced solos are a real joy. When trumpeter Condon drops out for half the tracks, Ronnie and Art sound for all the world like Al and Zoot, with Al doing his baritone double. Both Square and Jack are just the sort of meat Al and Zoot love to get their teeth into. They are Ross compositions as is the title track. Heatley wrote Kid, which is Monkishly inclined, and Condon is credited with U69, the first tune ever dedicated to a microphone, says the sleeve note . . . but what about Ernie Wilkins’ Telefunken Blues, my man? Elefsen contributed Tibula and the other two songs are work of Bill le Sage who takes a few hard-hitting piano solos now and then.
Music of this stamp – straight ahead and swinging – may be out of step with current tastes but it sounds, as Big Bill Campbell used to say, ‘mighty fine.’ More power to Ross’ elbow for having the courage of his convictions to keep playing this way.