Alex Webb: British Standard Time

Jazz repertory man Alex Webb turns his attention to British songwriting, spanning Noel Coward to Paul Weller, made famous by US jazz players

1919

Alex Webb is well known for creating themed productions that tell particular stories in jazz history. He arranges the music for these shows, he’s the bandleader and pianist and he also narrates the storyline. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing four of them: Jazz At Cafe Society; Charlie Parker On Dial; Jo Harrop Sings Peggy Lee and Portrait Of Cannonball – the latter co-led with Tony Kofi. They’ve all been excellent.

The theme of Webb’s current project, British Standard Time, focuses on British writers whose songs have been made famous by American jazz artists. His album reframes these classic compositions and enables renewed expression via homegrown vocalists and jazz musicians. The songwriters involved span several decades and include names such as Noel Coward, Ray Noble, George Shearing and Lionel Bart through to Paul Weller and Amy Winehouse. Two compositions on the album are by Webb himself.

To deliver the goods he brings together the distinctive voices of Jo Harrop, reggae singer Carroll Thompson, up-and-coming Luca Manning and Tony Momrelle from the world of soul and R&B. The mix of contrasting timbres, tones and vocal range is fascinating. The use of four different singers sustains interest through almost an hour of music when a single voice can often falter in this regard.

All the musicians are first-rate and carry off Webb’s stylish arrangements with panache. Highlights are many and include Andy Davies’s superb trumpet playing in Give Me The Night and The Very Thought Of You; Nathaniel Cross’s trombone in Human and Mad About The Boy; Jamie McCredie’s guitar work in the latter track and Ciyo Brown’s guitar opening in Breakfast For Two.

Flo Moore’s strong bass lines in the first number and in Lullaby Of Birdland are impressive, as is her driving bass in Human. Indeed Moore and drum partner Sophie Alloway are an excellent pairing throughout all 15 tracks of the album.

Leo Richardson is sublime on flute in Moments while he and Kofi on saxes and Webb on piano are just splendid from end to end. I’ll bet now that this album is a strong contender for best recording of the year.

Discography
Give Me The Night; Lullaby of Birdland; I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For; Slip Away; Try A Little Tenderness; The Man In The Station/I Don’t Want To Know; Breakfast For Two; Human; Moments; The Very Thought Of You; Mad About The Boy; As Long As He Needs Me; Love Is A Losing Game; You Do Something To Me; Almost Blue (56.25)
Webb (p, org); Jo Harrop, Luca Manning, Tony Momrelle, Carroll Thompson (v); Tony Kofi (ss, as, bar); Leo Richardson (ts, f); Andy Davies (t, flh); Nathaniel Cross (tb); Ciyo Brown (g) (tracks 5, 7, 9 & 10); Jamie McCredie (g) (tracks 11 & 14); Flo Moore (b, elb); Sophie Alloway (d, pc). London, 2021.
Lateralize Records LR013CD