Alex Merritt / Steve Fishwick Quintet: Mind-Ear-Ladder

The British saxophonist and trumpeter lead their quintet through a set of sharply executed mid-60s style hard bop


One of the UK’s finest trumpeters, Steve Fishwick teams up with long-term collaborator saxophonist and composer Alex Merritt for what I assume to be their debut album together. It’s a straight-ahead blowing session, of a kind that is less often heard now, and generous enough in its timings to allow each musician to make his substantial mark.

To my ears, Merritt is occasionally too garrulous, too hurried in delivery, but then more than makes up for that on the well-paced Hollow Man and elsewhere, but Fishwick is his ideal foil, quietly determined in every solo he plays. Together they form a fine front line, nicely dovetailing together when they play the heads. Pianist John Turville is inventive throughout, notably on Pablo-ish, bass and drums a strong rhythm section.

I assume all the accomplished compositions are theirs – the Soundcloud streaming does not provide press releases or sleeve notes – and they form a coherent set, UHCD – The Upper Holloway Dental Clinic, since you ask – a nice nod to Billy Strayhorn, the spritely Number Nine a good runner up, Ma Ballade and Linda well-poised ballads, New Waltz an elegiac ender.

If this is indeed their debut album, what a fine, assured start this quintet has made.

UHDC; Pablo-ish; Hollow Man; Dr Wu What’s Wrong With You; Ma Ballade; Number Nine; Linda; At St George’s; New Waltz (61.52)
Merritt (ts); Fishwick (t); John Turville (p); Mick Coady (b); Matt Fishwick (d). c. 2021.
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 631